PASSINGS

Mau­ritz Leen, 1959-2014

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents 12/ 14 -

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.

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