inside the ropes

In early August, Gerhard Pepler’s long-time girlfriend Jouane Gouws gave birth to their baby girl, Mia.

Three top-10s and a maiden Sunshine Tour win followed.

It's fair to say that Pepler, who is a leading contender in the Sunshine Tour Rookie of the Year standings, has found his lucky charm.

In his own words, his rookie season has been “all smooth”, a seamless transition from the Big Easy Tour where he had three wins in 2022 and captured the Order of Merit to gain his Sunshine Tour card.

Aged 23, he wasn’t groomed for golf so much as born into it. His father Gert bought him a golf set before he was born. Old home movies show young Gerhard in nappies swinging a plastic club, a sign of things to come.

At his local course in Lydenburg, there was a large dam in front of the green on the 18th hole. “My dad said that if I ever hit the ball over the dam, I’d get a four-wheeler,” he recalls. “I did it before the age of three.”

Some 20 years later, after Gerhard won the Gary & Vivienne Player Challenge, it took his father two days to call. “He cries when I win... he was too emotional to call immediately.”

If family helped develop Gerhard’s golf passion – his father competed in Canada at the World Police Championship and his uncle Hennie was a PGA coach – it is family who now form his outlook.


“It's a dream come true to win in my rookie season, but it also feels unreal, like I’m going to wake up. Of course now I can look forward to playing at the Gary & Vivienne Player Invitational at The Lost City too. For any South African golfer growing up, it’s always about Mr Player and it’s amazing what he has done for our golf, he’s the reason this all happens” – Pepler after coming from four strokes behind to claim his maiden Sunshine Tour win, at the Gary & Vivienne Player Challenge at White River Country Club.

He played in everything. It was a mission for his mom to keep him in school... He always believed he could win.

– Jean Sadie

By his own admission, he was a hothead as a youngster and would anger easily, but he has learned never to take the effects of a bad round home to his family.

“The best advice I ever got was from my girlfriend, who said, ‘Just relax and enjoy it, make it fun.’”

In 2019, in his first Big Easy Tour season, a chance meeting with sports psychologist Allan Rimmel was also transformative, coming off the back of Pepler making just three cuts in 14 starts.

Rimmel helped his mental game and continues to work with the rookie.

“What changed was his whole lifestyle, not just his mentality,” says Jean Sadie, who took Pepler under his wing when he was a member of the SA Golf Development Academy (SAGDB). Sadie has known him since the age of eight. “He played in everything. It was a mission for his mom to keep him in school. At golf, when the prize-giving was about to start, he’d be out on the chipping green. He always believed he could win.”

Sadie says that Pepler, who moved to Lephalale (formerly Ellisras) as a toddler, benefited from a close-knit community that produced fine golfers like Retief Goosen and CJ du Plessis.

He never doubted the youngster’s ability and noticed a change when Pepler graduated to senior golf. “He realised others were also good and got a bit of a scare. I was glad to see a big change in him on the Big Easy Tour.”

The subsequent epidemic also brought a reckoning. Money was tight. Pepler turned to girlfriend Jouane to help on the bag. In her second outing, Pepler picked up his first Big Easy win. “She’s my rock,” he says, pointing out that her qualification in forensic psychology helps calm him.

He grew up admiring Tiger Woods, and wanting to play like him, but these days it’s Viktor Hovland who thrills him, chiefly because of how he switched his game up.

As for superstition, Pepler tends not to warm up – “I stand and hit as hard as I can” – and he uses a Canadian one dollar coin as a marker.

It’s early days, but he happily shares advice for emerging pros. “Don’t take it too seriously, otherwise you’ll miss the big moments. Everything happens like it should.”

A good lesson, and one learned from experience.


Gerhard Pepler shot a final round five-under 67 at Centurion Country Club to claim a come-from-behind victory at the 2022 Altron Big Easy Tour Playoff tournament.

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