Joburg kid golfer tees off big in Amer­ica

He’s only seven years old and Simthandil­e is al­ready rak­ing in the sil­ver­ware at in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ments

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HE’S not much taller than the golf clubs he wields but don’t be de­ceived by his size. Dy­na­mite comes in small pack­ages, they say – and when it comes to whack­ing a ball down the green, Simthandil­e Tsha­bal­ala un­leashes all his fire­power. So good is seven-year-old Simthandil­e, he was nick­named SimTiger by of­fi­cials at a cham­pi­onship in Amer­ica last year. His chips and drives made them adapt his name to re­flect one of the great­est golfers the world’s ever seen: Tiger Woods. Simthandil­e is al­ready a reg­u­lar on golf cour­ses around the world and ear­lier this month re­turned tri­umphant from a US Kids Golf tour­na­ment in North Carolina where he was crowned cham­pion.

“Be­ing there was great as Simthandil­e was sur­rounded by his peers who share the same pas­sion he does,” says his proud dad, Bonginkosi. “He’s shown great im­prove­ment in his game and al­ways wants to prac­tise be­cause he can see where he needs to do bet­ter.”

SIMTHANDIL­E’S dad and mom, Bongeka, in­tro­duced him to a va­ri­ety of sports at a young age when it be­came clear he had nat­u­ral ap­ti­tude. Ten­nis, soc­cer, cricket, swim­ming – he ex­celled at them all. But when he tried golf he was in­stantly hooked. He was just four when he first picked up a club and he’s barely put them down since. “I started off by play­ing with my dad when he’d take me to the golf course,” says Simthandil­e, who’s in Grade 2 at Steyn City School in Four­ways, Jo­han­nes­burg, and lives in the Steyn City Park­land Res­i­dence com­plex.

“When I re­alised he could be great at

golf I put in all my en­ergy into en­cour­ag­ing him,” his dad says. But he re­alised he wouldn’t be able to nur­ture his son’s tal­ent alone so he took him for lessons at The Golf School of Ex­cel­lence in Eden­vale. Bonginkosi, a CEO at a con­sult­ing firm, is now his son’s man­ager and caddy.

“As a par­ent it’s very im­por­tant to nur­ture your kids’ tal­ent, con­stantly sup­port­ing them so they can be great. I grew up with a dis­ad­van­taged back­ground and didn’t have many op­por­tu­ni­ties, so from the time Simthandil­e was young I knew I wanted to give him what I didn’t have,” says Bonginkosi, who also has a daugh­ter, Imi­nathi (2), with Bongeka.

His most im­por­tant role, he adds, is sup­port­ing his boy emo­tion­ally as com­pet­ing at a young age can take its toll. Simthandil­e will be fly­ing over­seas again soon – to Canada, Costa Rica and Brazil. “There’s a lot of trav­el­ling in­volved and the equip­ment is costly so we’re look­ing into get­ting a sponsor,” his dad says.

Simthandil­e may have a way to go un­til he dons the green blazer that win­ners of the ul­ti­mate golf tour­na­ments, the Masters, wear. But at the rate he’s go­ing Tiger Woods’ records could come tum­bling down be­fore long.

‘He al­ways wants to prac­tise to get bet­ter’

Dad Bonginkosi Tsha­bal­ala (ABOVE) is also the avid young golfer’s man­ager and caddy, while mom Bongeka and younger sis­ter Imi­nathi pro­vide lots of sup­port.

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