JOHANNESBURG - Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher, Kevin Pietersen, Shane Warne and Mark Nicholas will be exchanging cricket bats for golf clubs when they compete in this week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland.
All five are self-proclaimed “golf nuts” now that they have discovered the joys of hitting a little white ball as well as a shiny red one. The cricket stars are part of the tournament’s celebrity line-up that will be teeing up in the pro-am that runs alongside the $5-million (about) main event.
“I can’t wait. It’s the best week of the year,” says Kallis. “The show that gets put on is truly special and those three courses (St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns) are phenomenal. The nerves are definitely there because it’s not my sport. But a safe three-iron off the first on the Old Course should settle things down a bit.”
Not Kallis’ sport? One could argue the point. He is mad about the game, pretty talented actually, and practices as often as he can, with his best score a splendid 65 at Durbanville Golf Club. He is off a three handicap and not so long ago scored his first hole-in-one at Kambuku Golf Club in Komatipoort.
The man with the highest number of South African Test runs remembers how he made an instinctive golf swing after he completed his first double-century. “I had scored just over 100 overnight and next morning I got a text from Johann Rupert saying that if I got the double hundred he’d give me honorary membership of Leopard Creek,” Kallis said in an interview with Compleat Golfer magazine.
“It was a once-off offer. When I did get to 200, I instinctively did a golf swing in my celebration. It wasn’t planned or anything, but I think Mr Rupert enjoyed it and we’ve certainly had plenty of fun at Leopard since then,” Kallis, who also plays as often as he can at Steenberg, Westlake and Fancourt, explains.
“I like to spend an hour a day on the range, it’s something you have to do to master your swing. I used to hit the ball with a little draw but I’ve changed - with a lot of time and effort - to a cut. It’s more controllable, especially away from Cape Town where the wind tends to blow a little less.
”In golf the pressure is always there,” he told the magazine, “because you have your own standards, no matter your handicap. You want to go out, play well, and beat your mates. You live your whole being competitive on the cricket field and it’s nice to continue some of that on the golf course afterwards, albeit on a different level. Golf certainly gives me that same thrill.”
Kallis says one of his golfing highlights this year was watching from behind the ropes fellow South African Branden Grace becoming the first player in Major-championship history to shoot a 62, in the British Open at Royal Birkdale in July.
The former cricket great also rates Pietersen and Boucher as pretty decent golfers. “KP loves the game but I’m glad to say me and Bouch took out him and Ernie Els in a practice round at last year’s Dunhill Links. Now I’m up for it again.”