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
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.