Let’s have a national fourball event
BY STUART McLEAN, EDITOR
There’s a familiar ritual every day on the first tee of golf courses around South Africa. Four balls are tossed into the air, with the two landing closest to each other becoming partners for the round. Or perhaps it’s two friends up against two longtime rivals. This is golf as most of us know and love it, the game of fourball betterball, either Stableford or matchplay.
The SA Golf Association are doing away with their long-standing Under-23 interprovincial, and for me this represents an opportunity for them to give something back to club golfers, those who pay their provincial and national affiliation fees year out and year in without much in return.
Rather than having another event for elite players (who have more than enough), let’s have a national betterball championship. This would require new thinking on the part of the SAGA, but this kind of forward vision would recognise the popularity of betterball golf.
We can have qualifying sites in every province – based on the number of golfers in each union, so that Central Gauteng would, for instance, have three qualifiers, and Limpopo or Border just one each. These would be 36-hole medal qualifiers, with no strokes. Everyone plays off scratch. This wouldn’t be a championship where ringers could flourish, as in those sponsored betterball national finals where the winning pairs are rewarded with an international trip.
To make it more inclusive of a range of abilities, I propose three separate divisions. The A division would comprise golfers with handicaps of 4 or lower, the B division for those with handicaps 5 to 9, and the C division from 10 to 15. A few T&Cs would make it a proper club golfer championship. In the A division, for example, the combined handicaps should not be lower than 2. That would prevent two hotshot +4 home-schooled non-working amateurs from pairing up. And I believe current provincial players should be excluded.
As for the most important T&C, entry should be reserved for members of golf clubs who actually play at their home course, not those who belong to virtual clubs. This would help engender club spirit. It doesn’t stop a player from pairing up with a buddy from another golf club.
Following the qualifiers, there would be a week-long national championship at three of our top courses, for 192 pairs, 64 from each division. Each division would play in a different region. The A division might be at Humewood, the B division at Durban CC, and the C division at Bloemfontein, but all would be played in the same week. The finals would be entirely matchplay, first of all in round-robin groups, and then knockout.
It sounds like a massive event, and that’s the way it should be perceived. The potential is there to attract perhaps a thousand team entries each year (far more players than enter the SA Amateur or SA Open), and make it a championship in which everyone desires to play. Entry fees and a national sponsor should easily pay for it – finalists would be required to pay their own travel and accommodation – and the SAGA can administer it, one of their strengths.
Women’s Golf South Africa could create a similar event for their affiliated members, and I’m sure that would be equally popular.
In case the SAGA hierarchy don’t read Golf Digest, I’m emailing this column to executive director Bruce Younge and president Gerhard Conradie. Let’s do this.