inside the ropes

Robin Tiger Williams is young, fit, and strong, but even he has been astounded by the rigours of life as a professional golfer.

The Sunshine Tour Rookie of the Year came up for air to speak to THE GOLF MAG during the Waterfall City Tournament of Champions in Johannesburg. It was his 32nd consecutive event and he was knackered.

“It’s not so much physical, but mentally it’s hard,” he said. "Lots of driving, lots of moving around from week to week. It’s a lot.”

Williams isn’t one for complaining, but he referenced it as a means to give outsiders a sense of perspective. Aged 22, he’s starting out on a great adventure, but he’s readying himself for the struggles and likely pitfalls that await any aspirant.

He’s done OK so far. Last October he landed his maiden win, the Fortress Invitational at Glendower, with four sub-70 rounds. Four months later he lost a sudden-death playoff at the SDC Championship, barely two weeks after finishing joint third at the Dimension Data Pro-Am.

The SDC had its compensations, not least a R3.1-million cheque that reflected Williams’ hard work.

He finished second on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, a position he scarcely believes. “If you’d asked me about it this time last year, I’d have been happy keeping my card and finishing in the top 100.”

It earned him a spot on the DP World Tour, something he cherishes, although it’s not without some angst.

“It was my dream for a long time, and must still sink in. There’s different travel, courses, levels of competitiveness... 10 times more than I’m used to.”

But he’s grateful to the Sunshine Tour for helping hone his game, and his mental agility. He talks thankfully of how the Tour blends sponsors with volunteers, good organisation and efficiency to prepare its members for whatever golf’s big world might throw their way.

Williams’ unusual background sees him straddling two worlds: he lives in the UK with his parents, but most of his family is in South Africa, and his loyalty lies here, especially as he represents SA on the Sunshine Tour.

The family first left SA when Williams was just a few weeks old – his father was a dentist and the UK offered better opportunities. They moved to Wales and then returned to the land of his birth before again relocating at the age of eight.

They lived in Aberdeen in Scotland where Williams was a member at Hazlehead Golf Club, but playing out of bunkers while the snow was pelting down in May held little appeal. The family then upped sticks to a town near Cambridge in 2010, where they have lived ever since.

Given his middle name, decided in the year of the Tiger Slam, it seems pre-ordained that Robin was set for life as a golfer. Yet his father, Morné Williams, offered gentle encouragement.

Young Robin had been an aspirant cricketer, but when his father asked him what he wanted to do, he didn’t hesitate. “Golf is in my heart,” he told him, aged eight.

And so it was. He represented England as an amateur, won the Future Champions Golf World Championships in the US at the age of 11, played for Europe (as the top-ranked junior on the continent) at the Junior Ryder Cup in 2018, and won a MENA junior event in Jordan in 2019. Two years later, he finished runner-up at the St Andrews Links Trophy.

His transition to the pro ranks in 2021 thus followed an upward trajectory that shows few signs of dipping. His second name is a conversation starter wherever he goes, but he sees it as nothing less than a great honour to be named after Woods, whom he met at Golf Disneyland in France, venue of the Junior Ryder Cup.

I played team sport but didn’t enjoy it. In golf you can’t hide. Once you’re on the 1st tee it’s between you and the white ball


Williams explains how he got the middle name Tiger.

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He feels the same way about his race, cherishing his reality. “It’s sometimes tough knowing the background of South Africa and being non-white in a white-dominated game. But I take it as motivation,” he says proudly.

He’s also motivated by his genuine love for the game. The individual competitive aspect of his chosen sport is a big driver. “I played team sport but didn’t enjoy it. In golf you can’t hide. Once you’re on the 1st tee it’s between you and the white ball. Each shot is a mental battle. You can’t master this sport; it’s constantly frustrating.”

A frustration, he reminds, that he is happy to embrace.


A young Robin Tiger Williams meets Tiger Woods during the 2018 Junior Ryder Cup.

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