The former wheat farmer describes his inspirational journey from distinguished amateur to graduating to the European Senior Tour.
Raise Your Game: How old were you when you started to play golf?
Bertus Smit: I started playing golf when I was 14-years-old. I used to hit golf balls with my dad who started very late in golf at 65. He had previously played as scrum half for the South African Rugby team in 1932 so the sport gene is in our family.
4 February 1953
Cape Town, South Africa
- Winner of the Ryder Cup Wales Seniors Open, Royal Porthcawl (2009)
- Became the first Qualifying School graduate to win on the European Senior Tour in four years.
- Turned pro in 2000.
In the 1970s I made it onto the South Africa Provincial Team and the Western Province team. I continued to play competitive amateur golf in South Africa for 27 years. I was probably the oldest golfer in the Provincial team!
RYG: How important is education to a professional golfer?
BS: I'm a great believer in getting your education first because if golf doesn't work you will have something to fall back on. It's harder to go back to study when you're older. Get your education first and if you think you're good enough, give it a go.
RYG: Alongside your amateur career in golf, you were also a wheat farmer. What inspired you to follow your dream to be a professional golfer?
BS: I started farming in 1970 in a small town in South Africa and I did that for 30 years. In 1985, a group of South Africans were willing to sponsor me to play golf in America, but I had a young family at the time and decided to hold off until I was 50-years-old.
Eventually, I sold both my farms and I went to America and I only just missed out on qualifying. However, in 2005 I came second in the European Senior Tour Qualifying school Finals in Portugal where I made the tour and I've loved it ever since. It's a privilege to play and tour the world.
RYG: What qualities does golf instil in you as a person?
BS: You have to be competitive and you have to know that you can do it. If you don't play your best you miss out, but when you make it, it's such a privilege to play with people like Ian Woosnam, Sam Torrance and Gordon Brand Jr. Those memories stay with you for the rest of your life.
RYG: Would advice would you give to any aspiring young golfers?
BS: I recommend any young player plays as many competitive tournaments as possible as an amateur. This will teach them how to compete under pressure and will stand them in good stead for a professional career.
Size doesn't matter. Good things come in little packages!
Colin Jackson reveals more top tips on making exercise part of your lifestyle.