Fifteen years ago, a bored nine-year-old living on a remote dairy farm in the North West, picked up her father’s golf club to see what she could do with it. “I managed to whack a golf ball straight through our window. My father was furious until he realised how high the window was, and how well I must have connected with the ball!” And so began Bertine Strauss’s love affair with a sport usually reserved for men with money, or backers with deep pockets. Strauss had neither, but a fortuitous meeting just two years after she picked up her first club would not only change her career, but South Africa’s golfing landscape. Caroline Edey van Wyk - INVESTEC
In 2005, Investec’s Sam Hackner and Robin Magid met the diminutive talent at Millvale Private Retreat. “Her limbs were as big as toothpicks. She was two-bits and a tickey high. But she played off a two handicap,” says Hackner. The men challenged her to a round of golf, and insisted that she play off the men’s tee. “I was 12 at the time. I wasn’t intimidated by them because I was a kid. It was just fun”, recalls Bertine. Strauss shot 74 that day. 2 over par. Not that she knew it at the time, but that round of golf was arguably as important to her career as the round in Daytona Beach where she qualified to play in the 2016 US LPGA tour. It culminated, some thirteen years later, in a full Investec scholarship.
Strauss’s presence and mental fortitude is what sports commentator and talk show host, Dan Nicholl says distinguishes the young talent. “Women’s golf has become incredibly competitive over the last decade, and she’ll be up against exceptionally talented players. She’ll also have to deal with the travelling, the itinerant lifestyle, and coming from Koster, she’ll definitely having a craving for biltong! But the biggest challenge is the one I believe she’s best equipped to deal with- the mental demands of taking on the world’s best golfers, and believing she’s good enough to beat them.
There’s an incredibly strong and focused golfer beneath that easy smile and relaxed demeanour.” After matriculating with seven distinctions, Strauss set her sights on an American scholarship. Her impressive performance on the amateur tour and her strong academic record meant that seventeen universities offered her full scholarships. But the girl who grew up around cows, chose to go off to a university synonymous with Longhorn cattle. It was at Texas University that the Koster ‘plaas meisie’ moved from amateur to professional.
Only 20 players, out of a starting pack of almost 200, earned their 2016 LPGA cards via Qualifying School in Daytona Beach. “Getting my LPGA card was a huge kick start to my professional career. Within the next five years, I want to be in the world top 30. And if I continue progressing at the pace I am now, I think it’s achievable,” says an ambitious Bertine.
Unrealistic? Maybe, but Bertine has hit both the local and international golfing circuits, all cylinders firing. The 2016 Sunshine Ladies Tour saw her win three tournaments, the highlight of which was her nail biting victory at the Chase to Investec Cup final. Held at Millvale Private Retreat, it was an emotional win. “It’s special for me to win at this course, in front of a lot of people who have had a big impact on my career,” commented Strauss.
On the international front, she’s now leading the race for the prestigious title of LPGA “Rookie of the Year” award. And on the back end of the Californian Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, she broke into the top one-hundred women earners. She has now bounced up thirty-two positions in the Rolex official world rankings, to sit at 466.
“More than once I have had to pinch myself. It’s been an incredible journey”, says Strauss. “If you asked me two years ago if I would be standing here right now, I would have questioned you. Everything has progressed so quickly in the last few months. It feels like all the hard work and patience since I was 15 has suddenly come together and now I’m in overdrive.” Despite her meteoric rise in ladies’ golf, Bertine remains incredibly down to earth, proud of her roots and grateful.
For more inspiring stories from ambitious people who define themselves through their drive, and fierce sense of purpose- go to www.liveOutoftheOrdinary.com
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