Bernhard Langer (1957 - )
Born Anhausen, Germany, Langer is considered to be one of the finest European golfers still playing. He has single handidly put his country on the golfing map.
Langer grew up in a small rural community in the mountainous area of Bavaria. Although his father, Erwin, was a bricklayer, the family still struggled to make a decent living. In his autobiography, Langer recounts that he cannot remember ever being given pocket money. Indeed a shortage of cash was a constant factor in Langer's life until he finally made a name for himself in golf.
Langer's introduction to golf came when he was just 8. In order to earn some spending money, he followed in his brother's footsteps by caddying at the Ausburg Golf and Country Club, 5 miles from his home. Once he began earning money, he spent more and more time at the club. During slack times, he practised behind the caddy shack with a few old clubs and soon demonstrated a natural talent. He spent so much time at the club that he must have been considered one of the fixtures. When he turned 14, Langer was set to leave school when opportunity knocked. He managed to secure the position of assistant professional at Munich Golf Club. Even luckier was the real opportunity to train and become a true professional under the guidance of club professional Heinz Freiburg. Suddenly Langer was a professional golfer.
Eventually Langer was faced with the decision of pursuing a career of a club professional or a playing professional. Of course, he chose the latter and won his first tournament, the German National Open, in 1974. With sponsorship from Jan Brugelman, then a golf enthusiast, Langer began the hard slog of establishing himself playing tournaments around Europe, living out of a suitcase, and travelling on a shoestring budget. Langer had the motivation that golf was the only way of making a career for himself. His strong religious convictions must have given him the strength to endure the peaks and troughs of his early career.
In 1976, Langer joined the European PGA tour. By 1981, he topped the European Order of Merit. From 1981, he consistently won tournaments all around Europe including the German and Irish Opens. In 1984, he joined the American tour but wasn't particularly successful there. However, he continued to compete around the world and maintained his winning streak.
Just as Langer became successful, he developed the 'yips', a condition, which afflicts a golfer while putting. Somehow the hands do not follow the instructions the brain is sending and seem to strike the ball of their own accord. After much heartache and despair, he manged to overcome and re-establish his consistency and form. Since then he has periodically suffered putting problems. He experiments with many different types of putter and techniques in a continuous effort to overcome this affliction.
Langer won the US Masters in 1985 and signalled the return of Europeans to the world stage. He repeated that victory again in 1993. These are his only victories in the Majors yet he has been in the top five in 3 Opens. In 1990, he helped Germany to win the World Cup for the first time and as such elevated his status there to national hero. He also served on several Ryder Cup squads and has made a valuable contribution to fending off the relentless American challenge.
Langer is a devout Catholic and devoted family man. Despite his status, he has maintained his sense of modesty. He makes a point of being fully informed on every aspect of his mangement. In business, he is concerned with the long term and the maintenance of his image rather than his own exploitation. As a person, never mind a professional golfer, he sets an example to us all. We can expect a lot more from this great talent.
Langer's autobiography 'While The Iron Is Hot' is highly recommeded reading for an insight into Langer and life as a profesional golfer.
ISBN 0 09 171200 9