Branden Grace: Words From A Champion
After a breathtaking performance and comprehensive win at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters last week, South African golfer Branden Grace, will this week be turning his focus to the Dubai Desert Classic. But before that, the champion was nice enough to have a chat with Esquire Middle East. Talking about childhood, trophies, inspirations, nothing appears to elude the 27-year-old from continuing his 2016 stride with an upswing.
ESQ. How does Dubai size up, when it comes to golf courses?
BG. I’ve played events in Dubai and they’re always in great condition right up there with the best in the world. The grainy grass does make a tough field like the ones in the US. It’s already difficult enough trying to keep on the green and avoid the rough but, yeah, the type of grass is an obstacle.
ESQ. Sounds like a lot of travelling. How do you decide between when to play a tournament and when to rest?
BG. It depends on what the schedule looks like which I plan out during the beginning of every year. I like to play three or four tournaments in a row and then take three weeks off before playing four in a row once more. We play quite a lot and it’s always important to make use of the rest because golf isn’t easy and the travelling does take a lot out of you. It gets very hard when you change the schedule and it starts to mess with you training, time at home and that kind of stuff.
ESQ. What was your favourite moment from the past year?
BG. There are a couple. Competing in the Majors and winning the Qatar Masters were some of my favourite moments. It’s nice to have a chance at winning a Major and see whether you can pull it off at that level of golf. It would definitely be the US Open, PGA and Majors. Oh, and finishing the season 3rd [DP World Tour Championship] was also cool.
ESQ. What career performance are you most proud?
BG. It’s got to be the one where I was at home [Volvo Golf Champions 2012]. It’s always nice to play there, especially in a tournament environment, but you feel more pressure than anywhere else in the world. I managed to win and beat my boyhood idol, Ernie [Els], so that’s one of my special moments so far.
ESQ. Brought up at the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation, how essential are foundations for nurturing young hopefuls?
BG. Just because you’re in a foundation, it doesn’t mean you’re going to make it. It depends on the player because some people get it on a platter, feel entitled and mess it up. Sometimes you get people who have a hardworking ethic who tend to make it and use their opportunities. If you don’t then it’s not going to easy. Ernie [Els] was a big influence and I could see myself playing golf at 15 so I felt privileged to be in his foundation because it opened many doors. Just work hard at it.
ESQ. Would you do anything differently if you could do it all again?
BG. No. It’s important to love what you do and I love golf. When I was younger, you could find me chipping and putting from the mornings all the way to evenings. Work hard, chase your dreams and hope one things leads to another. I started with junior and amateur golf before I got good enough and decided to go pro. Go up the ladder and you’ll eventually reach your main goal.
ESQ. Stressful moments in your career?
BG. Competing in big events can be nerve-wracking but it’s what we do. My first put is always a nervous one but the autopilot kicks in once it’s over and the rest is history. You learn getting over nerves after hitting thousands of golf balls. It’s experience. Sometimes you just know what needs to be done.
ESQ. Who do you look to for inspiration?
BG. You look at your countrymen first so Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Gary Player have been great inspirations not only in South Africa but in the entire golfing world. Obviously growing up, I’d look at Tiger Woods and see the fire he played with and that look in his eyes where you could see golf was what he truly wanted. Nobody was going to step in his way.
ESQ. Have you built up rivalries over the years?
BG. I wouldn’t say I have because week in and week out you try to beat everyone. If I had to say there was a rival then I’d call the golf course my rival [laughs].
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Branden Grace will be playing at the Dubai Desert Classic. February 4 to 7.