Get­ting in the swing for a bright golf­ing fu­ture

Saturday Star - - NEWS - HEATHER DUGMORE

SABELO Ma­jola from KwaMashu, Dur­ban, can­not sleep he’s so ex­cited to be fly­ing on an aero­plane for the first time as well as playing on the same course as the best golfers in the world. He is at Sun City where the Ned­bank Golf Chal­lenge is tak­ing place this week­end. Year af­ter year, Ma­jola has watched the chal­lenge on TV and this year he will be there.

“This is my year,” says Ma­jola who plays of f a two-hand­i­cap.

“First, I was cho­sen to rep­re­sent the Royal Dur­ban Golf Club in the premier pro­vin­cial scratch league where I won many games and now Sun City.”

Ma­jola is one of four young golfers playing in a four-ball group in the Sports Trust Golf Chal­lenge, the an­nual fund-rais­ing event on Mon­day, the day af­ter the fi­nal round of the Ned­bank Golf Chal­lenge. They were se­lected by the South African Golf De­vel­op­ment Board (SAGDB) from more than 2 000 de­vel­op­ment golfers across South Africa.

The four, who are com­pletely hooked on the game and have al­ready won a host of ti­tles, are Crys­tal Beukes, 16, from Som­er­set West, Ma­jola, 21, Ig­na­tion “Iggy” Douries, 18, from Citrus­dal, and Nh­lalenhle Dlamini, 19, from Joburg.

“The Sports Trust Golf Chal­lenge of fers am­a­teurs and de­vel­op­ment golfers the op­por­tu­nity to com­pete on the same course as the pros. It is spon­sored by Ned­bank and Sun In­ter­na­tional to raise funds to nur­ture golf­ing tal­ent from un­der-re­sourced com­mu­ni­ties,” says To­bie Baden­horst, Ned­bank head of spon­sor­ships and cause mar­ket­ing.

Af­ter last year’s tour na­ment, Ned­bank chief ex­ec­u­tive Mike Brown handed over a cheque for R1 mil­lion to­wards the event.

The young­sters are be­ing chap­er­oned by SAGDB de­vel­op­ment golf man­ager in KwaZu­luNatal, Joseph Kunene, who has been with the board for 18 years. “I’m look­ing for­ward to see­ing how the four han­dle the long, dif­fi­cult course,” says Kunene, who got into the game as a pri­mary school pupil in Dannhauser, KZN.

“I would caddy on the lo­cal course owned by the coal mine and got hooked from the mo­ment that I learnt to swing a club.”

In 1989, Kunene be­came the first black mem­ber of the golf club. He re­duced his hand­i­cap from 10 and went on to win the club cham­pi­onships for five years run­ning as a scratch golfer, as well as get­ting his pro­vin­cial colours.

In 1998, when the mine closed, he joined the KZN Golf Union as the golf de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer. A year later the SAGDB was formed and he be­came its golf de­vel­op­ment man­ager. He tal­ent-scouts and de­vel­ops golfers from the age of eight to 18 through the SAGDB’s PGA-ap­proved coach­ing pro­gramme. He has four de­vel­op­ment chap­ters in KZN, with a to­tal of 258 de­vel­op­ment play­ers.

Over the past 18 years, the SAGDB has grown its net­work of coaches and of­fi­cials across the coun­try to de­velop the game. “We have chap­ters in the ur­ban and ru­ral ar­eas of the Boland, Bor­der, Free State, Gaut­eng, KwaZulu-Na­tal, Lim­popo, Mpumalanga, Southern Cape and West­ern Prov­ince,” Kunene says.

“We go to pri­mary schools that are prefer­ably close to a golf course and show all the Grade 2 and 3 pupils how to swing a club. We give them each five balls to hit and in­vite those who show promise to join our pro­gramme.”In ad­di­tion to golf, the pro­gramme is about nur­tur­ing life skills such as self­drive, hon­est, hard work and com­mit­ment.

“Ma­jola is one of my top pro­tégés and he could po­ten­tially go pro if he ap­plies him­self,” says Kunene.

“He has the tal­ent, as do the oth­ers, but it is up to them what they do with it.”

Grade 10 pupil Beukes plays off a two-hand­i­cap and ma­tric pupil Dlamini plays off a four. Douries plays off a 12 and has been coached through the South African Dis­abled Golf As­so­ci­a­tion’s (SAGDA’s) First Swing Pro­gramme.

Eight years ago Beukes could not walk – surgery and in­ten­sive phys­io­ther­apy re­stored the use of his legs and, since join­ing the ini­tia­tive, he has not looked back.

“When I go out there and com­pete against top able-bod­ied golfers, I see my­self as David knock­ing out the Go­liaths,” says Douries who is hop­ing to meet Hen­rik Sten­son and his other golf idols.

He will be chap­er­oned by SADGA na­tional head coach Andrew Cor­thing, who says: “Iggy is an amazing am­bas­sador for dis­abled golf and one of our SADGA elite play­ers in the First Swing Pro­gramme.

“Since its in­cep­tion, the SAGDB has coached over 50 000 young­sters,” says SAGDB op­er­a­tions and projects head, An­dré Ros­souw.

“Over 1 500 of our play­ers have par­tic­i­pated in ju­nior golf tour­na­ments and 34 of our most tal­ented play­ers have been in­vited to join pres­ti­gious high-per­for­mance cen­tres such as the Ernie Els and Fan­court Foun­da­tion. Six of our SAGDB play­ers have earned their tour cards on the Sun­shine Tour.”

The dream would be to see a South African golfer who has risen through the de­vel­op­ment ranks win­ning the Ned­bank Golf Chal­lenge one day.

KZN de­vel­op­ment golf man­ager Joseph Kunene.

Ig­na­tion ‘Iggy’ Douries will be aim­ing to show his form.

Crys­tal Beukes, one of the four promis­ing tal­ents.

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