Dan Sevel has left a big void and will be sorely missed, gone far too soon.
It wasn’t yet 6:30am on a cold July winter’s morning and the car radio was tuned to Darren Simpson’s Kfm breakfast show, while two sleepy teenagers being driven to school listened quietly. ‘If you had the choice of knowing how you are going to die, or the date you’re going to die, what would you choose?’ ‘Whackhead’ asked his audience. The subject was strangely macabre, grotesque even, for that early timeslot and out of kilter with the programme’s DNA.
Silence inside the car. And then one of the boys said, ‘The date … because you can prepare, but if you knew how you’d never know when it was going to happen. If it was to be in a car crash you would not want to be in a car again, because that could be your last trip. You’d never have quality of life. Or if it was suicide … you would never know if “this was it” whenever you were feeling down.’
Suicide, the silent killer.
‘Dan Sevel is dead.’ Four words which reverberated around golf in early July. It seems like just yesterday when we’d heard another four equally chilling words back in January 2017: ‘Wayne Westner shot himself.’ Both left us breathless, speechless and in disbelief. Apparently, the modern way is to say ‘death by suicide’, as opposed to ‘committed suicide’. Because, it is said, the victim can’t be thinking clearly enough to see a way out of the fog.
Many of us will have known someone who has taken their own life. Most of us will not have seen it coming. Surely, none of us who had ever crossed paths with Dan Sevel, who died when he fell five storeys from the balcony of the Sun International head office in Sandton, where he worked, on 12 July, will have foreseen such a tragedy.
Dan – ever smiling, ever helpful, deeply loved, respected, a husband, father, the Nedbank Golf Challenge tournament director and Sun International’s sports marketing manager – was dead, at the age of 41. He had everything, we thought. Everything. Reports said he left a note – just like Westner, once the golden boy of South African professional golf, had done before putting a 9mm to his head and pulling the trigger last year. Subsequently, it’s said there were signs not all was well with Westner.
But Dan? No one had a clue.
In 2009, German international goalkeeper Robert Enke was only 32 when he said goodbye to his wife and kissed his 10-month-old daughter on the forehead before heading to training at Bundesliga club Hannover 96. Afterwards, he drove his Mercedes 4X4 to a railway crossing, left his wallet and keys on the passenger seat and did not lock the car. Minutes later, he flung himself in front of an oncoming Hamburg to Bremen express train travelling at 260km/h.
In 1988 the former Charlton and QPR striker and Western Province cricketer Stuart Leary threw himself off Table Mountain. It is said he drove his Citi Golf from Claremont to the suicide spot but on the way he had a gym session at Kelvin Grove. ‘He went to gym as usual,’ said a former work companion. ‘Stuart was a meticulous person; they found him with a one-way ticket for the cable car and
his medication in his pocket.’
One of the finest cricket writers of this era, Peter Roebuck, took his own life when he leapt from the sixth-floor window of a Newlands hotel when police came knocking in 2011 to quiz him over unsubstantiated sexual allegations. The previous day he had sounded perfectly ‘normal’ and didn’t give the impression of a man intending to take his own life. Then again, what does someone on the brink of suicide sound, or look, like?
Dan Sevel has left a big void and will be sorely missed, gone far too soon. While the immediate hope is that his family, friends, colleagues and all his loved ones are comforted, we know he will be waiting for us, in his place as tournament director, when we join him on those big fairways in the sky.
– Gary Lemke writes a monthly column in Compleat Golfer