South African golfer
Golfer Retief Goosen's self-doubt would keep him in the shadows of fellow South African and friendly rival Ernie Els for many years. Playing primarily on the European Tour, Goosen enjoyed a quiet and mildly successful career while his friend Els competed with golf's superstars on the U.S. Tour. That would all change when Goosen, without much fanfare, won the 2001 U.S. Open and then proceeded to win five international titles in the following ten months. Although he continues in relative anonymity, his recent success allows him to do so without a doubt of his ability to compete with golf's giants.
Born February 2, 1969, in Pietersburg, South Africa, Goosen's father, a real estate agent, was an amateur golfer who introduced his son to the game at an early age. Goosen soon inherited his father's passion for the game. Beyond the realm of normal encouragement, his father pushed his son towards excellence—even going as far as to create a wooden contraption to ensure that his son kept his head still while swinging the club. By the time he was seventeen, Goosen was considered one of the top prospects in South African Golf, but not before suffering through a life changing event.
At fifteen, Goosen was struck by lightning while golfing with a friend at Pietersburg Golf Club. On January 30, 1985, Goosen and his friend Henri Potgieter were playing through a light drizzle when lightening struck the top of a tree and traveled to the ground and across the wet grass. Potgieter who was playing ahead of Goosen was knocked off his feet. Goosen, on the other hand, suffered a fate much worse than his friend. "When I stood up I was looking for him, and I couldn't find him," Potgieter remembered in Golf World. "I wanted to know his reaction. What I did see was his golf clubs and his golf bag. Then I saw him lying on his back. His tongue was down his throat and his eyes were backward, and he was breathing weird. He had no clothes on; they'd been burned from his body. I remember picking up his spectacles. I didn't know what to do. It looked like he was dead. I was screaming for help. Fortunately, there were guys teeing off on the 12th hole. They came running toward us. From then on, I can't remember much. They picked him up and put him in a car." Goosen's shoes had disintegrated from his feet, his underwear and watch band had melted to his body. Relieved that their son had survived the accident, Goosen's father took it as an act of God and a hint of things to come.
The European Tour
So taken with the game, Goosen returned to the links within a few weeks of the life changing event. In 1990, Goosen won the South African Amateur tournament and quickly turned professional. He spent his early professional career on the South African tour. He won the Newcastle Classic in 1991 and three tournaments the following year. He won the Mount Edgecombe Trophy in 1993 and the Phillips South African Open in 1995. While still on the South African tour he qualified for the European PGA Tour in 1992 but did not win his first tournament until 1996. He had several top ten finishes in 1997, including a win in the Peugeot Open in France. In 2000, after a successful year in 1999, Goosen finished tied for 12th in the U.S. Open Championship.
The U.S. Open
In 2001, Goosen would again play in the U.S. Open, entering the tournament as the 44th ranked golfer in the world. Unknown to the American golf audience, Goosen would have to overcome conventional wisdom and defeat Tiger Woods , who was on a quest for his fifth consecutive major tournament. Woods, however, essentially eliminated himself from the running with an uncharacteristically poor performance. Goosen's victory was nearly foiled by a three putt performance on the final hole of the tournament. Luckily for him, he wasn't the only one having trouble on the green and a similarly poor performance by Stewart Cink left Goosen tied with Mark Brooks. After the 18-hole playoff, held the following day, Goosen had defeated Brooks and his self-doubt to become the winner of the 101st U.S. Open.
Better suited for the slower paced European Tour, Goosen shied from the spotlight and the endorsements that were offered following his win. With a win in the Scottish Open, however, Goosen entered the British Open that season with a chance to become the first golfer since Lee Trevino to win three National Championships in such a short period of time. Although he was unsuccessful in his bid to match Trevino's achievement, Goosen enjoyed a breakout year in 2001 with five international titles in ten months which propelled him from 44th to fourth in the World Ranking.
|1969||Born February 2 in Pietersburg, South Africa|
|1985||Struck by lightning while golfing|
|1990||Wins South African Amateur tournament|
|1991||Wins his first tournament on South African tour|
|1992||Qualifies for European PGA Tour|
|1996||Wins first European tournament|
|2000||Finishes tied for twelfth in first U.S. Open|
|2001||Wins U.S. Open Championship|
Awards and Accomplishments
|1991||Won Lacor Newcastle Classic|
|1991||Named South African Rookie of the Year|
|1992||Won Spoomet, Bushveld, and Witbank Classics|
|1993||Won Mount Edgecombe Trophy|
|1995||Won Phillips South African Open|
|1996||Won Staley Hall Northumberland Challenge|
|1997||Won Peugeot Open de France|
|1999||Won Novotgel Perrier Open de France|
|2000||Won the Trophee Lancome|
|2001||Won U.S. Open Championship|
|2001||Won Scottish Open|
Although Goosen's career had been overshadowed by fellow South African Ernie Els's success and his own self-doubt, his breakout year in 2001 has allowed him to overcome his lack of confidence and afforded him the opportunity to continue without the nagging need to prove himself on the world's stage. Goosen also began designing his first golf course in 2001 for a new resort planned for Plettenburg Bay, South Africa.
Hawkins, John. "Beware of Rookie Mistake." Golf World (October 19, 2001): 48.
Hawkins, John. "The Agony and the Ecstasy." Golf World (June 22, 2001): 20.
Huggan, John. "Lark by the Loch." Golf World (July 20, 2001): 22.
Huggan, John. "French Toast." Golf World (September 22, 2000): 34.
Huggan, John. "Hitting the Trifecta." Golf World (Novemeber 2, 2001): 44.
Huggan, John. "Perth Perfect." Golf World (February 1, 2002): 22.
Jenkins, Dan. "Major Surprise." Golf Digest (August, 2001): 154.
Kindred, Dave. "Support Group." Golf Digest (Novemeber, 2001): 57.
Rosaforte, Tim. "Finishing Touch." Golf World (April 12, 2002): 26.
Rosaforte, Tim. "One Grounded Goose." Golf World (July 13, 2001): 34.
Biography Resource Center. Detroit: Gale Group, 2002.
Sketch by Aric Karpinski