CAPE TOWN - “It’s a pretty awesome weapon to have, as long as it goes straight,” chuckles Dean Burmester, referring to his ability to hit a golf ball further than most. A lot further. To put it in golfing parlance, he “smokes it”, like mighty 350-metre drives when he catches one in the sweet spot.
The 28-year-old is enjoying his first full season on the European Tour, courtesy of him winning the Tshwane Open at Pretoria CC earlier this year. And earlier this week he was like a little kid who had just found a new place to play as he teed up for the first time in a practice round on the exquisite course at the Regnum Carya Golf and Spa Resort, venue for the $7million Turkish Airlines Open beginning on Thursday.
“It’s my first time in Turkey and it’s such a privilege to be travelling the world playing golf in these big-money events and at the same time making some cash (like close to R10m this year). As for this place and this course well, what can I say? Just fantastic,” declares the Bloemfontein-based golfer who plays out of Schoeman Park and whose game doesn’t only depend on his power hitting. He’s an all-round talent and while he may not yet be as big a name as a Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen or Branden Grace, he’s getting there fast.
He’s won seven times on the Sunshine Tour and he’ll be playing in next week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge, also for the first time.
“To tee it up in the Nedbank has always been a boyhood dream of mine so I’m so amped about it,” says the son of a sporting father - his dad Mike played Test cricket for Zimbabwe - and a sporting mom. Michelle Burmester represented the Zimbabwe women’s golf team during a 15-year spell from age 16 to 31.
During this time she won the individual title at the All Africa Championships in Nigeria in 1996. She still holds the women’s course record at Royal Harare with a 70, while coincidentally, Dean has the men’s course record - 63.
Mothers know a thing or two about their sons and Michelle feels there are several reasons for Dean’s success.
“You know, we’re all originally from Zimbabwe and we used to live in a tiny little village called Claremont near Juliasdale in the Inyanga district,” she says. “There were no malls, no movies, just a shop and a garage. But there was a nine-hole course and that’s where Dean started to play golf.
"There wasn’t much else to do and he soon fell in love with the game. Although we sent him off to boarding school at Grey College in Bloem, where he played hockey, rugby and cricket, he had already decided by age 14 that it was golf that he wanted to concentrate on.
“He played for the Free State age-group teams from Under-16 to Under-23. Dean’s incredibly disciplined, loves a challenge and sets his goals high. It’s these qualities which have helped him do so well. Also, his coach, Corne Viljoen, works with him quite a bit. Corne has made sure his swing is not too mechanical or manufactured.”
And just last week before coming to Turkey, Viljoen was helping Burmester with the all-important mental side of the game. Another plus is having fellow 28-year-old Francois Olivier as his caddie on tour. Olivier studied sports psychology so he feels he knows how to keep his man in check.