He has played with Hashim Amla and A. B. de Villiers in the junior South Africa team but one fine day, Albie Hanekom realised that cricket was not the sport for him.
De Villiers was also his school mate at Pretoria’s Afrikaans High School, an institution strong in cricket and rugby.
“I loved playing cricket all day, even when I was all by myself I’d play against the wall. And I represented South Africa at the junior level, we played in New Zealand in 2001, I think, and that specific team had Hashim Amla and de Villiers,” said Hanekom in a chat at the CIAL Golf Club, Nedumbassery, on Wednesday.
Hanekom is now hooked to golf and is here for the PGTI Cochin Masters, the national pro tour, which began on Wednesday. “Of course, those days, we never knew who’d be the best. We never thought A. B. would be that good then, now he’s a superstar.”
The politics in sport was a big reason for Hanekom quitting cricket at 18, soon after that New Zealand tour. “As a young kid, I didn’t want to get into that. At that stage, there was a big transformation in South Africa,” said the 33-year-old.
“Some kids ignored it but it kind of bugged me. We used to have trials and stuff and we’d play like 10 practice games but finally when the tournament starts, they will change four to five players, that kind of politics. So it was sort of, not a good taste in your mouth. And suddenly, I just did not have the motivation to play the sport any further. I love golf and I think it’s the individual part of it that pulled me, because I kind of like to do my own thing.”
Hanekom’s love of travel was another factor that made golf look attractive. “I’ve always been a wanderlust. On a personal basis, I’ve been to 86 countries and of course, it’s not just for golf. I don’t spend money on myself on materialistic things but on travel.”
He played golf in South Africa’s Sunshine Pro Tour for some seven years but is now mostly playing in Europe and in Asia. Hanekom has brought two of his younger friends, Quintin Garett and Romano Saincic, to India and with the PGTI becoming an open tour this year, feels it will bring more and more foreign players and the tour players will also slowly start getting world ranking points.
“Now that it’s an open tour, it’s a lot more interesting. It’s not possible to have world ranking points in tournaments if you have such restrictions but now, you can start having ranking points,” said the Pretoria-born player whose roots are in Germany.
“It’s shame that this tour does not have world ranking points because you are now strong enough to have that.”