New challenges for talented trio
outh Africa exports a lot of its talented people overseas, in various fields, and it’s quite some coincidence that three of the biggest names in the golf resort / golf estate industry have currently moved or are moving to new jobs almost simultaneously in California, Australia and Mauritius.
First to leave in October was Steven Shearer, the new general manager at the Australian Golf Club, a private members club close to the heart of the Sydney CBD. Shearer was at Zimbali CC for several years, and before that at Heritage in Mauritius.
Interestingly, Shearer got the job at the Australian over the local candidates not only because of an impressive CV in the industry (which included working at Sun City), but also through having both a university degree and outstanding golfing skills. Originally from the Port Elizabeth Golf Club, he represented South Africa at amateur level, and is still an excellent golfer today in his 40s.
Part of his interview in Sydney involved playing a round of golf with the head honchos on the Australian committee. They wanted to see how he good he was in terms of allround golfing knowhow, because having excellent golfing skills was important for them in the man who was going to manage their club.
“I managed to stiff a few shots close for birdies in the opening holes, and after nine holes they told me they had seen enough,” said Shearer, who will be overseeing an upgraded Jack Nicklaus design that has been a regular Australian Open host, and will have that championship again in 2017. His successor at Zimbali is Gavin Woodroffe, prised away from the Erinvale estate in Somerset West. They are similar operations.
Fancourt’s general manager of golf, Lloyd Martindale, is heading even further afield than Shearer, to Cordevalle Golf Club in Silicon Valley near San Francisco. He starts in December at this luxury members club which has a boutique hotel on site. It hosted the US Women’s Open this year.
Fancourt and Cordevalle have the same
Sowner, Hasso Plattner, and Martindale’s appointment is evidently very much tied in to his excellent performance over the years at the George resort. “Moving overseas is a natural step at this stage of my career in the golf industry,” says Martindale. “After you’ve reached the top of the tree in South Africa, where else do you go? Fancourt is in many ways a pinnacle in this country.” Martindale, over the course of the last 15 years, climbed up the ladder from Goldfields West to Maccauvlei to George GC before gravitating to Fancourt. His successor will be Ryan Reid of Serengeti, a former Sunshine Tour player and PGA pro.
Probably the most envied move will be that of Dave Usendorff as golf manager to the prestige Anahita resort in Mauritius. Usendorff has left a big impression building up the golfing facilities and creating a family friendly atmosphere at The Els Club Copperleaf in Gauteng. He is another Port Elizabeth product, and like Shearer represented Eastern Province at the Interprovincial.A third PE connection, Rob Selley, is now at Royal Auckland GC in New Zealand, where he has a major project ahead of him with a merger of two big clubs, and the construction of a new course.
The ability of our top industry performers to land big jobs with overseas clubs is testimony to the regard in which the rest of the golfing world views South Africa, and the qualifications of our managers. Our first major export was Mike Leemhuis, who went from Sun City to running Congressional GC in Washington, DC. He’s now president of the Ocean Reef Club in Florida. He returned home recently to speak at the Africa Golf Summit, and his observation of South African golf clubs is that our best ones are keeping up with overseas standards and trends. So we can expect more of our talent to be head-hunted in the future.