As usually happens when a player largely unknown to a US audience [no offence] wins a major, the internets are abuzz today with stories on Charl Schwartzel’s background, hobbies, opinions and many possible futures, with nearly every one containing its fair share of latent skepticism (if I see on more ‘Is Charl Schwartzel a one-win wonder?’ poll…). Were an American player of a similar age and pedigree to win in the style that the South African did yesterday, we’d be hailing the arrival of a major talent.
Given that he’s been one of the European Tour’s most promising stars for years now, the 26-year-old(!) will, I suspect, very much be around for the long haul. It’s worth taking the time to get to know him.
Luckily for us, Nike recorded an interview with Charl after his second-place finish at Doral last year in which he talks about his birthplace, love of flying, respect for Ernie and, presciently, his first trip to Augusta National. In fact, he condenses pretty much everything that today’s features are going to tell you into one bite-size sit-down:
Bob Harig of ESPN quotes Johann Rupert, Charl’s mentor, in describing a scene from a pre-Masters lunch last year where, having initially bonded over their shared interest in killing animals for fun, Jack Nicklaus and Charl talked Augusta National tactics:
“Nicklaus went hole by hole, telling Schwartzel how he thought around the storied course on his way to winning the Masters six times. He explained that green zones are what you aim for, red zones you avoid and orange zones are the bailout area. Schwartzel had yet to even play the course.
Rupert, who was at Augusta National for Schwartzel’s victory, picks up the story from there.
‘I could see the kid — he’s got this lovely smile — I could see he wasn’t paying attention,’ Rupert said. ‘I was writing down the notes as fast as I could. And then I emailed it to him. And the rest is history.'”
Aside from occasionally acting as Charl’s PA, Rupert has been instrumental in encouraging some of South Africa’s most impressive young players. In fact, it was the influence of another Rupert-sponsored talent, Louis Oosthuizen, that proved central to building Charl’s self-confidence, essentially convincing him that he had what it took to win a major championship:
“He inspired me so much, by seeing him do it… We grew up together. And he made me think it was possible to win a major like this.”
As Rupert was keen to point out to tournament officials, it’s about time we learned to pronounce Schwartzel and Oosthuizen properly.