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Jean Van de Velde As part of Ballantine’s campaign about the importance of character in golf, we interviewed some of the biggest names in the game about the moments when true character has been revealed on the golf course. This month, Hong Kong-based Frenchman Jean Van de Velde, who rocketed to attention at the 1999 Open Championship after coming unglued at Carnoustie’s final hole.

Does a golfer need to play the game true to their own character to achieve success? Totally. It’s a job and you have to compromise, but all of us players all took up the game because we love the game and we love playing a certain way. If you look at a guy like Jiménez, he’s a great athlete and he makes a lot of sacrifices for the game, but he smokes a cigar once a day, he drinks a whisky – a Ballantine’s – once a day. It doesn’t go against his performance, it helps him to perform better because he’s always being true to himself. Sure, if someone drinks a whole bottle of Scotch, it might not be a smart thing to do if you’re playing at 8.00am the next morning, but if you have a glass, then fine. Do we only ever really see a golfer’s true character in moments of pressure or difficulty? It’s more in adversity that you see what a guy’s made of. There are up and downs in the middle of the round or the middle of the week, but it’s when you HKGOLFER.COM

Burned at Carnoustie: Van de Velde says that when he's on the golf course he's only accountable to himself

hit the wall – and we all do – then you really see what the guy’s made of. There’s no hiding in golf because of all the cameras and journalists and fans, and then you see what you’re made of. Your most high-profile moment was at the 1999 Open Championship when you suffered under enormous pressure. When you look back, does this reflect on your true character? Many individuals say I would have done this, I would have done that – fine, but I didn’t do that. I’m only accountable to myself. I kept true to myself. I wasn’t going to make a deal with the devil. Why? Simply because it’s against the way I am, who I am, the way I think. I’m not going to hit an iron off the tee. That’s the way I am. If I feel like I have a high percentage chance of hitting the shot, I will go for it. That’s me. At the end of the day, I totally assumed my choices. I didn’t go out there and hide. I’m going to live with my choices. Would I like to have my name on the trophy? Yes, of course, that’s why you play golf, but it’s always a little more than that. You know what you’ve done, what you can do, who you’re accountable to, and I wake up in the morning and I’m happy with who I am. Don’t get me wrong, that’s why we play sports. We like the adrenalin, the challenge, the emotion. We’re emotion junkies. We like to push ourselves, put ourselves in uncomfortable positions to get the best out of ourselves. CONTINUED ON PAGE 74 AFP

H ow m u c h d o e s a p l aye r ’s character influence the way they play golf? Golf reveals the character of the person. The way that he plays is totally linked to his DNA. You look at a guy like Seve [Ballesteros], for example, and the panache that he had. That really was a reflection of his own personality coming out of him and you saw it when he interacted with the crowd or the way he played on the golf course. Ian Poulter is the same, while [Miguel Angel] Jiménez is also very flamboyant. The way he plays – he hits left to right, right to left, the high shot, the low shot – that’s what he is. He plays like a matador and is not afraid of delivering the shots. It’s very unlikely that what you see on the golf course is not a reflection of the real person.

HK Golfer・JUL 2012


“It’s more in adversity that you see what a guy’s made of. There are up and downs in the middle of the round or the middle of the week, but it’s when you hit the wall – and we all do – then you really see what the guy’s made of. There’s no hiding in golf.”

AFP (Ryder Cup); Courtesy of the Ballantine's Championship (Ballantine's)


Magnificent memories: Van de Velde with José María Olazábal (top), one of the players he most admires, enjoy a laugh during a practice round prior to the 1999 Ryder Cup; thirteen years later at the Ballantine's Championship in Korea (opposite) 2

HK Golfer・JUL 2012

Can this ‘true character’ also be revealed off the course? There are exceptions, but what you see out there is a great reflection of the man. A lot of people in the business world love playing golf because they can see what they’re dealing with. You spend four and a half hours with someone and you can get a great reflection of what you can anticipate off the course. The way in which you conduct yourself and react to situations in golf seems to be almost as important as the score you shoot. Why do you think that is? You’re going to have a mixture of good performances and bad performances through your career. Golf is also a sport in which you lose more than you win. No one in golf is ever

going to be as consistent or as successful as the top tennis players like [Roger] Federer or [Rafael] Nadal and win a third or half of the big tournaments you compete in. In golf, you’re not going to reach the top four for 20 or 30 majors in a row, like they do. Of course, you’re going to be remembered for your performances, but it’s more important to conduct yourself well. To me, that’s the biggest message. Do you think the manner in which you win is as important as the winning itself? Without a doubt. It’s more important. If you win, but you’re miserable to other players and the spectators, then what kind of image do you give? I don’t agree with the saying, ‘winning is everything’. Winning is everything in competition terms, but not at every cost. Would you agree that the true greats of the game have left their mark as much by the sort of characters that they were as by the titles that they won? In golf, almost all the guys who have won on the world stage – but for a few exceptions – are to be admired for their dedication and the passion they show and inspire on and off the course. I don’t think there are too many surprises when you see the character of people HKGOLFER.COM