• Why play if you are not having fun?

    els for autism golf day
    A big turn out at Pearl Valley

    More monthly tales, this time from our own WADE PRETORIUS on the Els for Autism campaign, of which Compleat Golfer is official media partner.

    I don’t know what kind of golfer you are, but if you are like me and many others around South Africa, you love at least three things about the game – playing a great golf course, a round in perfect weather, and Ernie Els.

    All three speak for themselves, so it was a no-brainer when I was offered the chance to participate in my first Els for Autism golf day at one of the Cape’s most revered layouts, Pearl Valley.

    Compleat Golfer had covered the event for over a year, and reading about the camaraderie, the fun, the spot at Highland Gate and the ultimate prize – meeting ‘The Big Easy’ – had me as excited about a game of golf as I’d ever been.

    Waking up to a perfect summer’s day meant the drive out to Paarl went by in a flash as I rehearsed in my mind the shots I needed to play, and got ready to execute a good swing.

    In my view, there aren’t many courses that compete with Pearl Valley for the experience, and this day proved no exception; I love being taken care of like a tycoon in the making. The practice facilities were abuzz with laughter as it was clear everyone in the field had two things on their mind: good golf and having fun.

    It wasn’t long before we were on our way on to the course – now was the time to shine, I thought to myself.

    A sliced drive, a chip hit straight in the teeth and a flop shot that was more Phil Dunphy than Phil Mickelson quickly cut me down to size.

    My partner, a colleague who will remain unnamed for his own safety, then conspired to four-putt for a double-bogey and a solitary point. The only positive is that our opponents were already waiting in the cart, long since having picked up.

    A remarkable par by yours truly won the next hole, beating three fives. It hinted that the 1st-hole jitters, which had everyone wondering if they should rather join the local tennis club than venture out on to a golf course again, had dissipated.

    The rest of the front nine is better left undocumented, unless you get joy reading about wayward tee shots, duffed chips and more three-putts than you can imagine. And the 10th didn’t start well either: three lost balls off the tee and double-bogey taking the hole.

    The day got progressively worse, although the standard wasn’t particularly PGA Tour level to begin with. The ‘highlight’ came when I won the 13th, the notorious par-three water hole, with a five after managing to keep my bunker shot, which is played straight back into the hazard, dry. It’s more than I can say for the rest of my group.

    As we limped home, the laughs got a little louder – what else is there to do when you are stuck on a beautiful stretch of land, 100km from your desk, with a driver in your hands. Golf had us beat. We knew it, our rapidly decreasing supply of balls knew it and Pearl Valley knew it.

    Bye-bye Highland Gate.

    Bye-bye Ernie Els.

    So, what’s the upside? For starters, I left having gotten to know two really friendly golfers who were there as much for the golf as they were to support a good cause. It was their second year playing in the event and I can almost guarantee you they will be back next time. There was also a special guest with us for the day: one of the gents brought his son who has Down syndrome, and it was great to see father and son interact, especially when he was given a chance to drive the cart.

    Life is too short not to smile and shrug off a bad shot. Our four-ball bought into that philosophy and it made for a really enjoyable day.

    As the sun set and the players replayed their rounds on the balcony, you could sense that no one had had a bad day. In fact, quite the opposite. Many had probably forgotten why they’d signed up for the golf day in the first place, after such a good time in the sun with friends – old and new. Or maybe they hadn’t; such was the generosity during the proceedings that followed.

    While, for me, it was a case of plotting my revenge on the course until the next Els for Autism golf day. – Wade Pretorius

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