The recent US Open showcased not only the strength of South African golf inside the ropes but also outside as three of the country’s top golf coaches were working with their players at Erin Hills. By Michael Vlismas
PGA of South Africa coaches Peter Berman, Llewellyn van Leeuwen and Jamie Gough were all in attendance at the second Major of 2017.
Berman was there as the official coach of Branden Grace; while Van Leeuwen worked with Brandon Stone, George Coetzee and Oliver Bekker; and Gough was keeping an eye on the swing of Chinese star Li Haotong and several other European Tour professionals.
Gough’s work on tour has long been praised, and even more so after Haotong made history as the first Chinese professional to make the cut in a US Open.
Van Leeuwen also had reason to celebrate as Stone finished tied 35th in his first US Open.
And Grace finished tied 50th in a Major Berman believes the South African is perfectly suited for, with two top five finishes in his last three US Opens.
“Branden really thrives on pressure situations and tough golf courses and US Opens definitely suit him. This US Open probably didn’t play into his hands because of the rain that softened the golf course. But it’s also so competitive that anybody in the top 50 in the world can win a Major now. I wouldn’t be surprised if the current streak of first-time Major winners continues.
“But overall, from a South African perspective it was a fantastic experience. We obviously had a few South African golfers in the field and then a few South African caddies there as well. So it was great to have the three of us there as part of quite a strong South African showing that week.”
South Africa has long been highly regarded for the quality of players it produces, but the intense efforts being put in by the PGA of South Africa to introduce cutting-edge education programmes for its members is leading to a boom in coaching depth in this country.
“The PGA of South Africa coaching professionals are improving all the time,” says Berman. “We have exceptional coaches in this country, and not just those who coach out on Tour. We have an array of wonderful coaches who are growing the game through juniors and beginner golfers and in turn producing really good players.
“If the coaches continue to upskill and learn from each other then South Africa will continue to produce really good players at every level. And there is no doubt in my mind that if young and aspiring golfers can get to their local PGA professional and get the basics in place early on it will make a big difference in their games and their overall enjoyment of golf.”