Sishen - Denis Hutchinson has played golf with Ben Hogan and seen him hit every shot
in the book on just one hole. He’s been around the game long enough to have
seen Dale Hayes as a baby in a carry cot. And this week he’s back at Sishen
Golf Club, a course he last played with a then 13-year-old Des Terblanche.
Zimbabwe-born Hutchinson, 84, is the guest of honour at this week’s
Vodacom Origins of Golf tournament on the Sunshine Tour, and the man known
worldwide as the “Voice of Golf” for his commentary on the European Tour never
thought there would ever come a day when he’d see a R700 000 tournament being
played in the Kalahari.
“I would never have believed it possible. It’s
amazing how the prize money has increased worldwide. But the professionals are
giving a lot to the game through pro-ams and such, otherwise the sponsors
wouldn’t keep investing.
“I remember playing in my very first tournament in
America in 1960. I played with Dave Marr, who went on to win the PGA
Championship. The tournament we played in was the first of the $50 000
tournaments. We all thought that was so much money. I was lying third at one
point, and Dave said to me, ‘Hutchy, another round like that and the car won’t
be big enough for the money you’ll take home’. Today’s pros wouldn’t walk
across the road for $50 000.”
Hutchinson won the South African Open as an amateur,
added three South African Masters titles and also an SA PGA Championship title
amongst his 15 professional victories.
As he sits under the shade of a kameeldoring
tree outside the Sishen clubhouse, the 84-year-old “Hutchy” delights in
remembering the rounds he played with Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player
and so many others and the times he beat some of them, rather than the fact
that an 11th-place finish in the Dutch Open earned him zero
prize money in those days.
And with the millions in prize money on offer now,
Hutchinson often cannot comprehend how modern professionals would skip some of
the big tournaments.
“Everybody’s tired these days. Ben Hogan used to say
if you’re tired then just go to bed earlier. They make a lot of money very
quickly these days. But you know, Hogan and Jack Nicklaus and all of them were
right. The win is what’s important. A lot of golfers today make a fortune never
ever winning a tournament. Good for them, I suppose. But I think we came from a
time when the win was what was important.”
With South Africa’s last Major victory coming in
2012 courtesy of Ernie Els' win in the Open, Hutchinson says he isn’t too
concerned about the lull at this level.
“I don’t think it’s a problem. We’re in a very good
spot as far as our professionals go. We’ve still got a lot of talent coming
through. Haydn Porteous, Zander Lombard and I also think Trevor Fisher jnr.
have got the games to do great things if they just get the right break here or
Yet if there is one thing he could change about the
game, it would be making it easier for the average golfer.
“It’s become too difficult for the ordinary golfer.
The ball goes so far for the modern pro, but the ordinary club golfer still
And then he recalls how far Sunshine Tour campaigner
Merrick Bremner hits the ball and adds, “I don’t know how he does it, but I do
know that everytime he does, that little golf ball says ‘ouch’.”