SUN CITY, South Africa – Ernie Els Els had another sad day Saturday upon learning that his former psychologist, Jos Vanstiphout, died of a heart attack.
A friend of the psychologist said Vanstiphout died on Friday of a heart attack, the European Tour said. The friend, Xavier Champagne, said Vanstiphout broke his hip two years ago in a fall from a ladder, and in recent months had been dealing with shortness of breath.
Vanstiphout, 62, was one of a handful of golf’s best known mental-game experts, working primarily with European-based players.
Born in Belgium, he became interested in golf psychology after reading Tim Gallwey's book, "The Inner Game of Golf."
He worked with Retief Goosen when the South African won his first U.S. Open in 2001 at Southern Hills, where Goosen three-putted for bogey from 12 feet on the last hole to allow for a playoff, and then beat Mark Brooks the next day.
BECOME A FAN: Click here to join PGA.com Facebook Nation
He more famously worked with Els, who won his first British Open in 2002 after the first sudden-death playoff in Open history. Over the years, he also worked with Aaron Baddeley, Thomas Bjorn, Angel Cabrera, Darren Clarke, Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington, Thomas Levet, Paul McGinley, Eduardo Romero, Justin Rose, Adam Scott and Vijay Singh.
Els, speaking at the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa, received the news two days after the death of Nelson Mandela. He said Vanstiphout meant much to his career.
"We really connected and there was a genuine love for each other there," Els said. "It was a love-hate at times, as everyone will know, but the stuff he taught me and the way that he did it was totally different. His approach was unique, and I know he got under a lot of people's skin. But for me, he was just brilliant."
Els said he respected the no-nonsense approach of Vanstiphout, using tough talk even in the best of times. Els recalled his round of 60 at Royal Melbourne.
"I walk onto the range the next day and he is all over me again," Els said. "I said, `What?' And he looked at me and he said, `You know and I know that you should have shot 58.' That was the way he was, and he knew me very well, and was one of the only people who could say that to me."