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.
How much does a player’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.
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 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.
Written by The Editors
Photography by AFP
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