Over­berg club of­fers kids a shot at the green

Three youngsters from the Klein­mond area are set to take the golf­ing world by storm, writes LEILA SAMODIEN

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

IT’S LATE on a rainy Tues­day af­ter­noon, and teenagers Chadley Pi­etersen, Gersville Arnoldus and Ruwaan Pi­etersen are watch­ing their golf swings on a com­puter mon­i­tor. Golf guru Dou­glas Wood asks Gersville to name his favourite player, and the ea­ger 16-year-old is quick to re­spond. “Tiger Woods,” he says. A few sec­onds later, a video of the cham­pion US golfer comes to life on the screen, right be­side the video im­age of Gersville, taped just 20 min­utes be­fore.

Gersville’s an­gle could do with some work, Wood ex­plains: “Tiger has a lower an­gle; his knees are more bent, which af­fects the power of the swing.”

Gersville nods, soak­ing up all the ad­vice Wood has to of­fer.

Four years ago, the three young golfers could never have imag­ined this: analysing their shots, play­ing golf at the Ara­bella Coun­try Es­tate, min­gling with the golf­ing who’s who of the West­ern Cape. Like many of the kids at their school – Botriv­ier Pri­mary School in the Over­berg – Gersville, Chadley and Ruwaan knew very lit­tle about golf.

Some had watched it on tele­vi­sion from time to time, but they never thought they would one day get the op­por­tu­nity to play, says Chadley, 16, and Ruwaan, 14. Gersville hadn’t even seen golf on TV. “I knew noth­ing about it,” says Gersville. “I thought it was just a sport for rich peo­ple.”

Their in­ter­est was im­me­di­ately piqued when they heard that they had the chance to learn.

Their teach­ers told them that the Ara­bella Golf Club, based at the Ara­bella Coun­try Es­tate in Klein­mond, was run­ning a five-month win­ter pro­gramme to teach a group of Botriv­ier Pri­mary chil­dren the ba­sics.

The project, funded by the golf club and the ho­tel, has run ev­ery year since 2005. Each year, 10 to 15 dis­ad­van­taged chil­dren from Klein­mond and sur­rounds are se­lected to take part.

And they are given the very best in train­ing – they make use of the Ara­bella’s fa­cil­i­ties, pro­fes­sional equip­ment and train­ing from golf pro Ali­son Sheard, who is a for­mer Bri­tish Open cham­pion and a nine-time SA Open win­ner.

Sheard runs the pro­gramme with Ara­bella Pro Shop man­ager Rod­ney Ey­berg.

Ey­berg says that while the golf club mem­bers were sat­is­fied with the win­ter pro­gramme, they wanted to “take it a step fur­ther” by in­tro­duc­ing more in­tense train­ing for one or two chil­dren who showed real po­ten­tial.

“All the chil­dren were raw am­a­teurs, and we had to try to find those who had the co-or­di­na­tion and bal­ance to progress,” says Sheard.

Chadley and Gersville showed the most po­ten­tial.

“Many of the other chil­dren were pro­gress­ing too, but we can only fo­cus on so many at a time if we want to give them the very best train­ing,” she says.

Re­cently, the train­ers also no­ticed the tal­ent of the youngest of the three, Ruwaan, who joined the de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme af­ter Chadley and Gersville.

“At first, dur­ing the win­ter pro­gramme, we taught them the ba­sics,” says Sheard. “How to hold a golf club, how to swing, why they need to do things a cer­tain way. We ex­plained ev­ery de­tail.”

Now Chadley, Gersville and Ruwaan are be­ing fine-tuned – they are learn­ing the tech­ni­cal as­pects of the game, golf­ing eti­quette and the rules of the game.

Gersville now has a hand­i­cap of 14, while Chadley’s hand­i­cap is 15.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done, but they have a lot of en­cour­age­ment. Their par­ents are sup­port­ive and we fetch and drop them at home,” says Sheard.

Ey­berg says the trio are given a num­ber of spe­cial priv­i­leges, which keep them ex­cited about the game.

They are full mem­bers of the Ara­bella Golf Club, their di­etary needs and fit­ness lev­els are an­a­lysed by the Sports Sci­ence In­sti­tute of SA, they re­ceive train­ing from Sheard at least twice a week and their pro­fes­sional equip­ment is spon­sored.

“Or­di­nar­ily, they would not have ac­cess to th­ese kinds of fa­cil­i­ties and golf­ing en­vi­ron­ment, or con­tact with the mem­bers here, many of whom are highly suc­cess­ful and sup­port them fully,” says Ey­berg. “I think it has given them a con­fi­dence that ex­tends be­yond the golf course.”

The boys will soon be en­tered for their first few ju­nior Boland golf tour­na­ments.

Chadley says he hopes to be a pro­fes­sional one day. Even if he, as Gersville plans to do, chooses a dif­fer­ent ca­reer path he says he will play golf for the rest of his life.

“I’ve learnt a lot of things,” he says. “I won’t give it up just like that.”

And a wide-eyed Ruwaan says: “I didn’t think I’d ever be here, play­ing at Ara­bella. It was dif­fi­cult to learn golf at the start, but I like it. It’s a gen­tle­man’s sport.”

AIM­ING HIGH: Chadley Pi­etersen, 16, prac­tises his swing.

PI­CURES: JORDI MATAS

PRAC­TICE MAKES PER­FECT: Young golfers Gersville Arnoldus, front, Ruwaan Syms, mid­dle, and Chadley Pi­etersen, back, prac­tise at Ara­bella Golf Es­tate in Klein­mond, where they are part of a train­ing pro­gramme. On the far left, golf ex­perts Dou­glas Wood and Garth Milne record their shots for anal­y­sis.

TAK­ING TIPS: Ruwaan Syms, 14, Chadley Pi­etersen, 16, and Gersville Arnoldus, 16, back row, get train­ing tips from golf guru Dou­glas Wood, front right as golf trainer Rod­ney Ey­berg, front left, looks on.

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