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LIVING GOLF

In Search of First Black South African Major Champion; Interview with Branden Grace; Sports Scientist Helps Ernie Els Putt Better

Aired January 3, 2013 - 08:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SHANE O'DONOGHUE, CNN ANCHOR: A new season, a new country. This is a nation that is launching the European tour in 2013. A land that's staging more European tour events this year than any other. This is a country that has produced three different major champions in the last three years and more major championship victories since the Second World War than any other nation bar America.

Welcome to "LIVING GOLF". Welcome to South Africa.

On this month's program -- in search of the first black South African major champion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn't be surprised to see in the next ten years if we could have a Tiger Woods of golf in South Africa.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONOGHUE: On home turf, with the amazing Branden Grace ...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRANDEN GRACE: My (inaudible) this is one my dad made up for me when we lived on the farm.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONOGHUE: And a private lesson with the putting doctor. The woman who helped Ernie win the open.

Seven men from South Africa have gone onto become major champions. Unsurprisingly, given the history of this country, all have been white. But even under Apartheid, there were some successful black players, despite the severe restrictions on when and where they could play. And now great efforts are being made to spread the game beyond its traditional heartland. So how long before South Africa produces its first black or non-white major champion?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'DONOGHUE: Meet Byron. He learned to play here in Worcester, in the wild lands an hour from Capetown. He is the club champion and plays for his province.

BYRON WILLIAMS: I want to become a professional golfer one day, so it was my dream, you know, I'm just working out every day, to become a professional golfer.

O'DONOGHUE: But before Byron and Worcester, there had to be Durban and Papwa Sewgolum.

Durban Country Club, host of this month's Volvo Champions. It was here in 1963 that Sewgolum overcame the restrictions on non-white players and became the first man of color to win a major South African tournament.

But only whites were allowed inside the club house, so he was quickly handed the trophy in the pouring rain, while the white runners-up got up their prizes inside.

Down the road at Royal Durban, it's the opening event of the 2013 European season, Theo Manyama played with Papwa in that era. He is now the tournament director for South Africa's Sunshine Tour, this week overseeing the inaugural Nelson Mandela Championship.

Both those things would have been utterly inconceivable just 25 years ago. Under apartheid, non-white golfers needed special permits to play in big tournaments. And even when they got them, were treated as clearly second class.

THEO MANYAMA, TOURNAMENT DIRECTOR, SHUNSHINE TOUR: On Saturday they had the disco. So we went there Saturday night, and then when we arrived, the music stopped. And the next thing I was called by the captain of the club. He says to me, Theo, we do not have the license for you blacks to be in this function. If we let you in, he says, do you know how many government spies are here? We let you in, in the next five minutes this place will be swarming with police. And I'm going to lose my license. Would you like that to happen to me? I said, no.

O'DONOGHUE: Theo also played with Vincent Tshabalala, who battled apartheid's restrictions to win the French Open in 1976.

It then took more than 30 years for the next black South African to get his card to play on the European Tour.

JAMES KAMTE, QUALIFIED FOR EUROPEAN TOUR 2008, 2010: It was huge, you know. Just not -- not for me, but for a lot of guys that I used to travel with, you know, because you can share the experiences with them, you know. And you can actually give advice how to go on about getting a European card.

O'DONOGHUE: James says he sees more and more players of color coming on to the Sunshine Tour. But that they need a lot more support if they are to really break through like some of their white contemporaries.

KAMTE: Well, it's definitely has increased, you know, and thanks to the Sunshine Tour, you know, to giving playing privileges to the underprivileged kids to be able to play on the tour and compete in the high level. But to be honest, they are - (inaudible) that are coming up right now, there are not that many black kids that are coming up. Every time that there is a kid that comes up, it is always a white boy, a white kid or, you know, and you can see how quickly he is speeding up his process. I'm saying about, look at Branden, you know, the Antonegs (ph), the Charles Swatsov (ph), the Louis (ph).

O'DONOGHUE: The man running the Sunshine Tour is considerably more optimistic. What he agrees that the next obvious contenders for world fame are white, he sees a lot of black talent coming through.

SELWYN NATHAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SUNSHINE TOUR, SA: You got this young kid Teboho Sefatsa, who comes through SAGDB (ph), came through the Ernie Els Foundation, he played Emory Golf (ph). He's now won the order of merit on the (inaudible) Big Easy. And then he wound up on the Sunshine circuit the very next week winning the BMG.

O'DONOGHUE: Just off the coast from Durban is Zimbali, host of this year's Gary Player Invitational. South Africa's greatest ever player says predicting majors is near impossible, but he sees significant shifts towards the emergence of a black South African champion.

GARY PLAYER, WINNER OF NINE MAJORS: I wouldn't be surprised to see in the next ten years if we could have our Tiger Woods of golf in South Africa. I see a lot of these young black players that have really got tremendous ability. They've got -- Ernie Els has an academy. You have the Gary Player Academy at the World of Gulf, which I've seen a change in the last five years. It was predominantly white, I would say it's 55 percent black today. Encouraging, very encouraging, And then you got a man like Gavin Levenson, who is a coach here and a lot of these young players (inaudible), have you got a good young black player? He says I got several.

O'DONOGHUE: One of the spectators here is the Sunshine Tour's Selwyn Nathan. That's partly because he also runs the South Africa Golf Development Board, the country's main development program. It currently reaches around 2,000 children from poorer areas, and they are about to set up a new project with Gary Player in Johannesburg.

NATHAN: We're hoping in the first year to do some 600 kids. We're hoping to get Gary to come at a particular time just to see the progress. Out of that, we hope to find the -- more than one superstar.

O'DONOGHUE: Which leads us back to Byron in Worcester. He's learnt through one of the projects run by the SAGDB. The board was set up 12 years ago by one of South Africa's richest men, Johann Rupert. It now gets some of its funding from the South African Golf Association.

SHAWN ADRIANNSE, MANAGER, ROLAND REGION, SAGDB: Oh, the kids are disadvantaged. Their parents usually are one person that works in the house, they are maybe from a factory, in some way on the golf course as well, they work here. So it's difficult for them to come to the course, actually on time or maybe reach the course sometimes, because it's far to walk, and they have to go through certain rough areas.

(on camera): The more you do the centering, the better you'll get.

WILLIAMS: I was in primary school, and the SAGDB people come and ask if anyone wants to play golf. And I said, yes, and they learned me a lot of stuff, I just (inaudible) all the basic stuff.

ADRIANNSE: Well, see, (inaudible) the middle of the feet (ph).

GRANT HEPBURN, TECHNICAL DIRECTOR, SAGDB: This year, we had our first player get chosen to represent South Africa, which is a really (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The eye line must be over the ball ...

HEPBURN: If I look at the makeup of the provincial teams around the country, it's going to be a matter of time that these youngsters start breaking into the professional ranks. I think we will get more (inaudible) getting on to European Tour, but I'd say that's at least another five years away. But I think as soon as next year, we'll have some youngsters on the Sunshine Tour.

O'DONOGHUE: Just up the road in Paarl, South Africa's elite juniors have gathered for the National Provincial Championships. Nine of these players have come through the Development Board. But it's an interesting measure of where South African golf is at, that at this under 19 level, around 82, 85 percent are white.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a bit of a change, but it's not changing much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they exposed it more, and then they will provide more opportunities and stuff for colored players.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From about two years ago, there was -- there wasn't really a lot of black or Indian guys playing, and there is a lot more now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd like to be like Tiger Woods.

PETER LITTLE, JUNIOR GOLF COORDINATOR, SA GOLF ASSOCIATION: The players who are between ages of 20 and 23, with the amount of work going on, with players like Sefav Bajila (ph), Musi from Central -- fantastic golfers. And I can't see why if they are winning amateur tournaments at the top level, they can't -- they can't really come out to be top winners on the professional ranks.

O'DONOGHUE: After another coaching session, it's time for Byron to head home to the outskirts of Worcester. His junior victories have already won him an invitation to the (inaudible) in Sun City, where he met some of his golfing heroes. It was his first time on the plane. He's following in the footsteps of several players of color who are now winning national tournaments. No one can honestly predict how long it's going to take for that to mature into international success, but in the meantime, Byron is not the only one getting opportunities he would never otherwise have had.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'DONOGHUE: Still to come on LIVING GOLF, relaxing with the remarkable Branden Grace.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'DONOGHUE: Welcome back to LIVING GOLF. We've now driven five hours east of Cape Town to visit a man who could well be the next South African to rise to the status of major champion. Ernie may have won his fourth major in 2012, but in some ways, the achievement of a fellow countrymen was even more remarkable. Branden Grace made it onto the European tour through last season's qualifying school. Now, most graduates struggle, but he went out and won his first European tour event. Then three more. Just amazing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GRACE: I think I always knew I was going to win or two. I didn't know that I was going to win four in one season, to be honest. I think the first one is always special, no matter what. Winning Joburg. That was like just the key, you know, for -- not just to myself, but for everybody around me, and they -- and they believed I could win.

The second one was very close. Beating your two idols growing up and South African heroes, in a place where you grew up and where you started playing golf was very special. Those first two in South Africa, I just wanted to make like a worldwide statement, not -- not just being a guy that can win in South Africa. You know, I wanted to get out there and make a point that, you know, I can be an international player.

And when I got the one at the Volvo China, you know, then, you know, that I opened the next door. So I could take the next step forward. And then you know, the rest just -- everything just fell into place.

O'DONOGHUE: We're here at the academy at Fancourt (ph), where Branden learned so much of the game in his earlier days, and he's alongside his long-standing friends. But for you, Branden, it's a place you like to come back to, I'm sure?

GRACE: We moved down here about 10-11 (ph), then, you know, with all the great golf courses around the area, my primary school had golf as a sport as well, and just some day I took interest in it and just started playing.

O'DONOGHUE: And these guys, when did they come into your life?

GRACE: You know, Pete's been there pretty much from the start. When I started playing golf, you know, he was doing his apprenticeship for becoming a coach, you know, with the guy that was teaching me at that point. And Mayer (ph), I've known him a long time, and he is my best mate now. So you know, (inaudible), more than enough.

That's it. I'm ready. Let's do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you (inaudible) Masters.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

O'DONOGHUE: So, one of the great things about Branden is that he has kept a record of a lot of his achievements starting from the earliest of days. They were writing about you when you were a kid, and you've brought along five years there. A collection.

GRACE: What this (inaudible) was just a lot of -- a lot of memories. I think it started probably in 2005 when it all started, and, you know, when I really started playing -- playing good golf. And there's a lot of memories in here, also with Fancourt (ph) involved and things like that.

Well, actually, when I won, my first golf club over the years, my dad, this is one that my dad made up for me when -- when we lived on the farm. Yeah, I think my dad was a little bit harsh starting off with a three iron. I think it could have been -- with like a wage or something, but, you know, maybe that's why I'm hitting my long runs (ph) as good as I am these days.

O'DONOGHUE: I thought we might try and see if you are still able to hit this three iron that your dad cut down so many years ago. And perhaps, a few draws, a few fades, just shaping a few shots like you did as a boy. Just to show us how it's done.

Was it a big disappointment not to make this in your first go at the European tour, or was that a valuable lesson?

GRACE: I think a little bit of both. Obviously, you know, when you get on the tour, you want to stay there as long as you can. I think, but in my case, you know, I did a couple of things wrong. I think now -- and a lot of things have improved, you know, there's certain things and ways I've done (ph) things with, you know, padding (ph) walls (ph) and things like that, where I was more wanting it to look good, and that instead of feeling good. You know, and I think that's something I did well now to at the end of the last season, where, you know, after - before I went to tour school, I said, you know, I've had enough of this now. I want to just get (inaudible), which I think looks good and feels comfy, and stand the way I feel comfy, and just put and stop worrying what people think and say. And I think that's been -- that's been a big change for me this season.

O'DONOGHUE: Look at this! Look at this! Look at this! Look at this! Look at this! Look at this!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh!

GRACE: (inaudible) all the way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got the magic potter.

GRACE: This is it, this has done the job so far. I've actually changed it after my two wins, but that's exactly the same specs, the same looking one -- everything is just -- this one is a little bit more flatter. But I'm -- so (inaudible).

(LAUGHTER)

GRACE: Tiger has always been one of my idols and my role models in golf. And I remember when him and Ernie came face to face in the playoff, you know, I was still standing on one of those mounds up here, you know, just wanting to see what's going to happen.

(on camera): Find it!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh!

GRACE: That's what happens, never walked after a running ball.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, look at that.

GRACE: You see that? That's why he's my coach.

O'DONOGHUE: I'm curious, though, how different it is for you now on tour given all of this success?

GRACE: It's great, you know, I think, you know, it works not just on tour, but everything around it, you know. I know a lot of sports people like rugby players both for the (inaudible) and some footballers in the U.K. and things like that, and, you know, they see you as one of them now.

You know, I get the call, come play golf and things like it. I think that all those things make it extra special. You know, when I play with Tiger, you know, he's like -- well, you've had a great year, you know, tell me about it. Somebody who has achieved what he has, and laugh (ph) and possibly the best golfer ever. You know, (inaudible) last year about things like that, and it's nice people can play, too, (inaudible). It's nice to be able to -- that people see you in the same sights as what they see them in.

O'DONOGHUE: Ernie Els, he says that specifically the open championship is one that he sees you winning.

GRACE: Game wise, if you look at it like that this year and where my wins have been, it has been on the mostly links (ph) courses.

It's just nice to know that somebody -- Ernie can say, you know, he thinks I'm good enough to win a major. So I mean, that -- that also, you know, if you are going to believe it, now I can believe it because a lot of people see that in me.

O'DONOGHUE: Thank you very much for having me. This is a happy hunting ground for Branden Grace, he's won three times here in total. He's got, well, five wonderful victories to look back on for 2012. It's been an incredible year, and we wish you all the best from all of us in LIVING GOLF. Happy hunting in 2013.

GRACE: Thanks very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'DONOGHUE: Still to come on LIVING GOLF, the woman who taught Ernie Els how to putt again.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'DONOGHUE: Welcome back to LIVING GOLF. Now, this time last year, we spent some time down here in the Cape with Ernie Els, and he told us that he firmly believes that he could win another major. Six months later, he was standing on the 18th green of the Royal (inaudible) holding aloft the Open Championship trophy. Thanks in part to a woman who lives just down here.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'DONOGHUE: This is where you find Dr. Sherylle Calder, a world expert in how people see and process information. Pretty much taught Ernie how to putt again.

Hi, Dr. Calder. How are you? I'm Shane O'Donoghue, from CNN, great to see you.

DR. SHERYLLE CALDER, ERNIE ELS' NUTRITION COACH: How do you do? Welcome to (inaudible).

Everyone knows that his putting is the worst part of his game, that it had let him down. But just watching him putt, you know, his eyes roll over, his hands roll over, and those are really the factors that play a major role in being consistent in putting. Every time your eye moves, it processes, it takes information in which you need to process. Now, when his eyes keep moving, when he's got to putt, it changes the information all the time. And you can imagine how that impacts the response. So, we just needed his eyes to be (inaudible) and quieter to handle what he needs to be seeing and processing.

Probably the best day of my life in my career as a sport scientist, I was (inaudible), because I knew exactly what (inaudible). On the last day, (inaudible), which wasn't great. But when he hit that ninth, 10th, you just saw him walk toward it, and you just knew, yes, yes, something is happening. A nice putt on the 18th, and I just knew it was going to go in. And he did as well. And believing it, believing is really a starting point for being successful. If you know you have the technical ability, you can do anything.

O'DONOGHUE: What kind of exercises does Ernie do then with the EyeGym? You know, how forceful is this -- or what -- how practical it is?

CALDER: It's an online program, and the reason for that is that we can monitor him. So wherever he plays in the world and he trains, I can see when he trains, what he trains, how he scores.

O'DONOGHUE: So this is another way of training my eyes.

CALDER: Yes. What we're going to try and get specifically is how quickly you can process information and respond to it.

O'DONOGHUE: OK. So when you see a green basket that will appear on the screen, press the space bar as quickly as possible.

CALDER: You can see we change angles, direction, et cetera, so everything you see is random, that's not something you've seen before. So that's training that ability to respond to exactly what you are seeing, not what you think you are seeing.

O'DONOGHUE: Yeah.

CALDER: Yeah, good.

What's really interesting you would have found that (inaudible) -- that if you don't concentrate, you can't do the drill.

O'DONOGHUE: Yeah.

CALDER: So, if you are what -- (inaudible) trains as well, which is crucial to golf, this ability to concentrate (inaudible).

This is your assessment report, and I'll just give you an overall score. (inaudible) result, so that part is exciting, so we know that you don't score well in this, that you have a lot of potential to improve.

If you look at some of ...

O'DONOGHUE: A positive spin, I have to say.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'DONOGHUE: Well, we've been training inside of the office online, but it's now time to take it out to the golf course. But we're here on the practice green at Stellan Marsh (ph) Gulf Club. And Dr. Sherylle Calder, where do you begin when you get a new client?

CALDER: The nice interesting part for me is to know what you do.

O'DONOGHUE: Yeah.

CALDER: So, if you have to putt a bull from here to there, for example, what do you do? Tell me what you do.

O'DONOGHUE: I like to line it up and I'm using this visual aid of the nine on the ball. So, I'm very happy that that's on the line that I think this putt will go in. Then, taking my time and concentrating on trying to hit the three (ph) spot.

CALDER: Pitch. Yeah. Yeah. Good. Line it up again, line it up. If you are going to be striking the ball there.

O'DONOGHUE: OK.

CALDER: Feel -- feel the difference.

O'DONOGHUE: So I have another spot on the ball, so use that now as a (inaudible) where to strike.

CALDER: Yes.

Do a couple more, because, you know, the thing about this, I'm probably changing a little bit of your routine, but ultimately what I'm trying to do is make sure you do the right stuff visually. And if you do this consistently, then (inaudible).

(CROSSTALK)

O'DONOGHUE: Yeah.

CALDER: The effect with you -- by asking you to do something specific, it might -- it corrected something else as well. Which I can see you are already doing, which then gives you consistency in your putting.

O'DONOGHUE: Oh!

CALDER: You've got to be more focused. And then, as a result of striking the ball better, it improved your stroke, it made your stroke more smooth, and that what will happen consistently, which then means it (inaudible) distance as well.

And when you (inaudible), you feel better, you feel better and perform better.

O'DONOGHUE: It's great (inaudible) putts, isn't it?

CALDER: It's good, very exciting.

O'DONOGHUE: Oh!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'DONOGHUE: Well, that's it for this edition of LIVING GOLF: All our reports are online, and you can see what we're up to on Twitter. But for now from South Africa, the home of major champions past, present and no doubt future, good-bye.

END