Vet­eran golfer dreams of pro­duc­ing a few bril­liant black SA golf­ing champs as

Part of his le­gacy

CityPress - - Sport - PULE MOKHINE pmokhine@city­

In­ter­na­tion­ally renowned South African golfer Gary Player cher­ishes the dream that his golf academy will pro­duce the coun­try’s first black cham­pion in the mould of Tiger Woods. Although Woods has re­cently been out of form, the world’s for­mer top golfer un­doubt­edly has an im­pec­ca­ble record and still ranks among the world’s most suc­cess­ful golfers.

The leg­endary Player, who turns 80 in Novem­ber, has a dis­tin­guished record that in­cludes win­ning nine ma­jor cham­pi­onships dur­ing his ca­reer as a pro­fes­sional golfer.

The vet­eran this week told City Press his aim was to see more up-and-com­ing black golfers ben­e­fit­ing through the Gary Player School for Cham­pi­ons. The academy is con­nected to the SA Golf Devel­op­ment Board, which un­earths tal­ent from var­i­ous town­ships.

Player said he was con­cerned about the coun­try’s lack of top black golfers.

Vin­cent Tsha­bal­ala was the coun­try’s only black player to win big on the Euro­pean stage when he cap­tured the French Open ti­tle on the Euro­pean Tour way back in 1976.

The Alexan­dra-born Tsha­bal­ala, who is now 73, cur­rently plays in the se­niors.

James Kamte, who plays on the Sun­shine Tour, was des­tined for a great fu­ture in­ter­na­tion­ally af­ter he cap­tured the Asian Tour In­ter­na­tional in Thai­land in 2009.

But the Eastern Cape-born player is now bat­tling to re­gain his form.

Nonethe­less, Player be­lieves his dream to see his academy pro­duce more black cham­pi­ons is cer­tainly achiev­able.

“It’s sad to re­alise that there has not been any black win­ner on the Euro­pean stage since Vin­cent.

“My dream is to see the academy pro­duce at least one or two black champs in the mould of Tiger be­fore I die,” said Player.

He is con­vinced that the Gary Player School is the per­fect con­duit to nur­ture lo­cal tal­ent.

“We iden­tify young play­ers from 13 re­gions through­out the coun­try.

“From the 200 play­ers that we have, we must find at least a few who can be de­vel­oped into the golf­ing stars of to­mor­row,” he noted.

Player sees him­self and Tsha­bal­ala as the coun­try’s golf am­bas­sadors, as they both made their mark in Europe. He said the school was work­ing hard to pro­duce pro­fes­sional play­ers who could be­come the next gen­er­a­tion of South African golf am­bas­sadors.

Player added that it was dis­heart­en­ing to see tal­ented pro­fes­sional play­ers who did not take their ca­reers se­ri­ously – and their tal­ent was in­evitably wasted.

“There are too many golfers with po­ten­tial, but their tal­ent is de­stroyed be­cause they don’t take the game se­ri­ously.

“We want to make sure that doesn’t hap­pen,” he ex­plained.

The SA Golf Devel­op­ment Board is also do­ing its part to un­earth and nur­ture golf tal­ent.

Dar­ryl Edges, who is a mem­ber of the SA Golf Devel­op­ment Board, said the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s pro­gramme was help­ful to golfers.

“Our pro­gramme deals with 2 500 chil­dren, whose num­ber will be pruned down to ap­prox­i­mately 250. From there we’ll get a 13mem­ber elite squad orig­i­nat­ing from 13 re­gions – and ul­ti­mately the best play­ers,” Edges ex­plained.


CON­CERNED Gary Player

says he wants to see his academy pro­duc­ing more black cham­pi­ons BIG HIT De­spite a re­cent slump in form, Tiger Woods is his­tory’s great­est black golfer

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