01 Apr 2020

Erik Van Rooyen – ‘It’s really hard to find motivation to hit 100+ balls into a net’

South Africa’s Erik Van Rooyen was ready to build upon an impressive showing at the WGC-Mexico Championship and continue to climb up the Race to Dubai but finds himself – like many around the world currently – held up at home due to the coronavirus outbreak. The 30-year-old is based out in Florida, and with a limited number of activities to keep himself occupied, Worldwide Golf’s Jordan Smith got in touch to find out how he’s coping….

Erik Van Rooyen

Worldwide Golf: What’s your current situation over in the States? 

Erik Van Rooyen: It’s so bizarre, everything is shut down. We’re not actually in a lock-down quarantine mode yet, but you can’t really go anywhere anyway. I find it odd that they haven’t implemented the same kind of rules that they have in Dubai because I feel like a more aggressive approach is the way to tackle this virus. I know there’s some stricter rules right now in New York but people here in Florida are just self-isolating. It’s strange. All the golf courses and public parks shut down last week. So I was out practicing but then they literally just closed everything down. All the beaches are closed too so there’s really nowhere to go, I’m stuck at h

 WWG: How have you been getting creative at home with your practice?

EVR: It’s weird because I’ve got a practice net and a mat. I haven’t quite started practicing again yet, but now that the courses are shut and I don’t know when I’m going to get back out, it’s really tough to find motivation to hit 100+ balls into a net. I took about 10 days off after the cancellation of The Players Championship and then started going back to practice out on the course. And that gave me the opportunity to get a bit creative with my practice – play nine holes with a certain club or something like that. I could do things that I normally wouldn’t during the season, which was great. But when that closed I bought the net and mat but they haven’t been utilised yet.

WWG: How do you keep motivated with no events in the pipeline?

EVR: It’s a tough one. I’ve spoken to my coach about it and my sports psychologist back home and from a golfing side of things it’s difficult because you don’t know when you’re going to come back. So it’s hard to write down goals, with regard to what you want to achieve in the next weeks/months, because I just don’t know when I’m playing again. But that said, you can look at it the other way and say – ‘you’re not World No.1 and there’s plenty to work on with your game’. But then again it’s so difficult because all I’ve got is a net! I’ve got a Trackman so I can look at some numbers, but I’m not the type of guy that does that day-in day-out, hitting a thousand balls on the range and crunching the numbers. That’s not me. I think I’m going to look at this period as a little bit of maintenance until things start to pick up again – hopefully in around a month’s time. I haven’t been at home for this kind of stretch of time since I turned pro – so that’s been nice.

I’ve got a Peloton bike machine and a row machine and some bits and pieces, so I can work on my fitness. And I’ve always enjoyed that side of things. But it’s hard to work on anything else for me at this time. I’ve not yet been challenged by anyone on the Peloton yet. I certainly wouldn’t be up for a challenge against Rory because he’s at a different level at the moment! He’s been doing it for a while so maybe if I’ve caught up in a few weeks I might send him a message…

WWG: What will be the first thing you do when this period is over? 

EVR: I haven’t really thought what I’ll do first when things start to get back to normal. Maybe I’ll go to the beach. We only live about ten minutes from the beach and my wife and I went down there about a week ago to find them all closed. But it was strange because so many people were out there wanting to go on the beach but were just there on the sidewalk – yet the whole point of this is so that people can stay away from each other. I’ll also probably go out to a restaurant and have a nice dinner.  Everything is closed so that would be nice.

WWG: Have you kept in touch with any fellow Tour mates?

EVR: I’ve spoke to Branden Grace recently.  He asked me about my practice and I told him about my net but I’m hoping he comes back and says he knows of a simulator that someone has that we can use – maybe someone like Ernie Els or Louis Oosthuizen has one, I don’t know. But that would be pretty cool. I’m watching for him to get back to me on that.

Erik Van Rooyen

WWG: Are you in any WhatsApp group chats with any other players & what’s the banter like?

EVR: I’m part of a WhatsApp group with some fellow South Africans out on the European Tour but it’s been quite quiet of late, strangely enough. I think everyone is stuck in South Africa and busy at home – maybe I should start throwing them some memes or something. I think maybe we’re all slowly going a bit crazy.

WWG: We spoke to you in Abu Dhabi last year, you said you can go out on the streets and not be recognised. Has that changed since turning into a global star?

EVR: I do get recognised a little bit more back in South Africa. I mean, I’m still no Ernie Els when it comes to that level of hero, but it’s changing. In the United States is quite different, which is fine because I’m not really out here chasing fame. I’m a member at the Bears Club and the environment there is awesome, everyone is really friendly and people are starting to know me a bit more as they’re down for a bit of a chat. But in the US, golf fans have their own stars that they follow so I don’t mind too much.

Erik Van RooyenWWG: You’ve been branded as the ‘Happy Guy’ on Tour, what’s your thoughts on this?

EVR: It’s interesting that I get labeled as one of the happy guys on Tour! I had been known in the past to yell out a lit – maybe let slip a few cuss words here and there, which I got reprimanded for. But that has changed over the years and I think working with a my sports psychologist Maretha Claasen it has helped me control my emotions. So I’m in a better place!

WWG: You’ve been on Tour for two seasons now, have you had any strange interactions with fans?

EVR: One of my strangest moments out on tour was playing the US PGA Championship at Bethpage last year and the New York crowds are crazy. And on the final day I was playing with Jordan Spieth and I was playing quite well, inside the top ten, and I had this unbelievable up-and-down on the 16th after finding my ball sitting in its own pitch mark in the bunker – not quite plugged but sitting down awkwardly. I hit it out to about two inches and the people went crazy. Then on the next hole I hit it to about 12-15 feet – but I three putted and got booed off the green! But it was strange because I was looking at my caddie and we were enjoying ourselves in the situation, because we were thinking something like this is never going to happen again!

WWG: How did you find the desert swing at the start of the year?

EVR: I love starting the year in the Middle East. That desert swing is a stretch of events which you really look forward to because you’re coming off Christmas when you’ve had a bit of a break so you’re itching to get back out there. The weather is always great and I love the golf courses. Abu Dhabi being a Rolex Series event is great and the course is always in fantastic condition but I really enjoy the Dubai Desert Classic, it’s a fantastic course. The way it was set up this year was so hard with the rough so long and incredibly firm greens – but I enjoyed it. Even though I didn’t play fantastic golf I still enjoyed it. We don’t get that kind of tough set-up every week so it was great to see. The whole Tour loves going to Dubai.

WWG: Apart from the golf courses, what do you like most about Dubai?

EVR: Dubai is a fun place. There’s a lot of energy in the city and every year I’m astounded at the pictures I see of how it looked back in the day to what it has become. It’s fantastic to see that development. There’s great restaurants to go to, including Nusr-Et but I haven’t seen Salt Bae yet. It’s just a fun place to go to and there’s always lots going on.

Salt Bae

WWG: How important is it for you at the start of the season to play in the DP World Tour Championship?

EVR: It’s a massive incentive to play in the DP World Tour Championship at the end of the year. I’ve played two seasons on the European Tour now and on that first season the goal was to get the and qualify as one of the top 60 players – as it was then. I did quite well in my first year. Then in the second year your goals are aimed a little bit higher, and I played a bit better, but it’s just the benchmark for the Tour and the big names come out to play, especially now they’ve changed the format. I got off to an OK start and then playing well at the WGC in Mexico really pushed me up the rankings. I think when we do get playing again I’ll be in a good position. And winning the Race to Dubai at the end of the year – I’m not sure how they’ll address it this year with the postponements and cancellations – is a great incentive and everyone wants to get there and play well.

WWG: What’s been your best memory on Tour so far?

EVR: Definitely playing The Open Championship at Carnoustie for the first time in 2018 – that was unbelievable. There’s a lot of good memories besides that, we’ve got some unreal venues on Tour, Crans-Montana in Switzerland is fantastic. I always love going to the Dunhill Links as well because playing links golf is just great. But making my Open Championship debut and having my parents there at Carnoustie on such a brutal track has to be one of the best moments for me.

Erik Van Rooyen

WWG: Win the Masters or The Open Championship?

EVR: That’s a tough one, a real tough one. There’s a part of me that leans more towards to The Open,  just because it’s the oldest one with all of that amazing history. There’s a love for links golf that’s come out of nowhere really, growing up as a kid in South Africa, it was always the one Major that I could watch all the way through, golf would come on at 10am and not end until 7pm, so it was always so awesome to be able to watch that, my heart slightly leads to The Open – but hey if you can give me a green jacket I won’t mind wearing that!

WWG: Who do you look up to in the golf world? 

EVR: Everybody’s obvious answer is Tiger right? He’s the benchmark, but being from South Africa I’m going to say Ernie Els, we started talking a few years ago, I’m not super close to him, but we had a few chats before the Presidents Cup last year which I was hoping to get picked for – that’s when I really started talking to him. He lives in a Jupiter as well so we will be able to play a bit of golf together and hopefully I’ll get to know him better.

WWG: Do you ever travel with fellow Tour players to events with there being several players based in Jupiter?

“I’ve not flown to any events with the other Tour players yet, I’m still waiting on my invite from Rory McIlroy to fly on his private, hopefully that will come in the mail sometime soon.”



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