Mauritz Leen, 1959-2014
Mauritz Leen, 55, creator of the ABC of Golf series.
Golfers will best remember Mauritz Leen, who died recently in Adelaide, Australia, at 55, as the man behind the popular ABC of Golf series. At the turn of the millennium they were the best-selling sports books in South Africa, and Leen converted their success into a weekly television programme on SuperSport with the help of his good friend Blacky Swart. In 2003 it was watched by millions of viewers, as the series was shown in seven European countries. The ABC of Golf website was at the peak of its popularity getting over 20 000 hits a day.
The books, first published in 1997, devoted themselves to the basics of the game and were easy to understand, giving Leen a big following among new golfers during golf’s boom period. Hailing from Bethlehem in the Free State, he would tour the platteland golf clubs and give clinics which were highly popular.
Originally a PGA club professional, who apprenticed under John Fourie at Pretoria Golf Club, Leen later obtained a law degree from the University of South Africa, a diploma in business management, and MBA, before joining the Sunshine Tour as a tournament director. He founded the Winter Tour in the late 1980s which gave home-based tour professionals the opportunity to play smaller tournaments outside the summer months. The tour, using a proam format, went exclusively to smaller towns, where local companies put up the prizemoney. There was the Amatola Classic in King William’s Town, Bosveld Classic at Ellisras, Highveld Classic in Witbank, and the tour visited Newcastle, Uitenhage, Meyerton, Fish River, Kimberley and Sishen. These were events in which the likes of Ernie Els and Retief Goosen got their first starts in pro golf. The prizemoney was small (R4 000 was the average winner’s cheque), but it was competitive, and the players had fun. Some of the parties were legendary. The Winter Tour lasted as a separate entity until 1995 when it was melded into the Sunshine Tour.
Leen was an activist for transformation in golf, and played a leading part in the unity talks in 1990-91 after Sunshine Tour director Dennis Bruyns had resigned. This brought together the black Tournament Players Association under Bernard Kgantsi and the white Tournament Players Division of the PGA. A new constitution was drafted and a development strategy put in place. Kgantsi became chairman of the management committee.
Leen left South Africa in 2005 for a new life in Australia. He studied at a Melbourne university to convert his academic qualifications to the Australian equivalents, and then worked as a commercial lawyer for a firm in Adelaide. He maintained his golfing interest by passing the Australian PGA course.