ST ANDREWS, Scotland – They’ve shared the rugby field as famous father and son Springboks, and this week South Africa’s Schalk Burger and his son Schalk Burger Jnr. are sharing the fairways as they play together in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship for the first time.
“It’s very special. We all love what golf stands for and has meant in our lives, and to see your kids grow up in the game and to now come to The Home of Golf and experience it together is just a privilege,” said dad Schalk, who is a veteran of 18 Alfred Dunhill Links Championships and who in 2007 finished third in the team event with his other son, Tiaan, as his caddie.
But this marks the first time that Schalk Jnr., a Rugby World Cup winner with the Springboks as well as the IRB World Player of the Year in 2004 and now respected broadcaster, will play this tournament and the three links courses of the Old Course, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie.
“It’s a complete bucket list item for me. When I received the invite there was no hesitation. Lucky for me the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup schedule and my commentary duties also worked out as they have a break now. But I’ve got quite big shoes to fill at this event because everyone I speak to says, ‘Your dad is an absolute legend here’,” said Schalk Jnr.
“I actually think rugby and golf are similar in that it’s when you’re off the field or fairways and sharing stories that’s the most rewarding. If you ask me what was the most outstanding moment of my rugby career, it’s not about the trophies or World Cups I’ve won. It’s more about the friends I’ve made and the memories of special times together.”
It’s an equally emotional moment for his father, who sat beside his son’s bedside while he was recovering from spinal meningitis and then saw him make his miraculous return to rugby and receive the Laureus Comeback of the Year Award in 2015.
“Being alive is a privilege, and being alive in a place like this during this week even more so. Schalk and I have had wonderful memories on the golf course. From his first birdie using a cut-off two iron when he was only four years old to watching him as a young boy play golf with Ernie Els, to this week playing together here in St Andrews. I only have good memories.”
And this week, they’ll make some more together.
Photo Credits: Ian McIlgorm