Simthandile Tshabalala, the youngest member at The Club at Steyn City is only seven, but he is turning heads everywhere as he rises up the rankings. Compleat Golfer caught up with him …
They call him ‘SimTiger’, a clear reference to the 15-time Major champion who, from the moment he appeared on national television at the age of three, was destined to be a star.
South Africa’s seven-year-old sensation Tshabalala has been creating a stir as he travels the world, gaining experience and finishing up the leaderboards wherever he goes. He has been playing competitively for just over a year but has quickly gained a reputation as a star of the future.
Already in 2019 he has been crowned champion at a US Kids Golf event and was runner-up at the Australian Open in his age group.
His father, Bonginkosi, says of his son: ‘It’s been extremely challenging being his caddie. I have to basically step out of the role as his father to being a caddie. Being a father, I can yell at him, but as a caddie, I cannot do that. He doesn’t like being shouted at because it affects his game. So I have to find ways to talk to him as his caddie, which hasn’t been easy.’
His coach, Tumo Motaung, has also had to adjust: ‘When you coach seven-year-olds, you are not looking for their talent, but rather to introduce them to golf. You just want them to hold the golf club correctly and to make contact. But Sim is able to do everything. He has the entire game in his locker. So I don’t coach him like a seven-year-old.
‘He is always doing the hard work and putting in the hours. He is also very mature for his age. The first time I saw him swinging a golf club, I knew Sim was destined for greatness if he works hard.’
IN HIS OWN WORDS
Your dad plays a big role in your golfing life. Explain what he does.
He helps me a lot – we travel together around the world to play tournaments. He is my caddie and always gives me good advice. Our latest trip was to North Carolina in the United States for the US Kids Golf World Championships at the beginning of August.
Take us through a ‘normal’ day – how much time do you spend on golf?
I wake up in the morning and do my exercises. Then I get ready for school. I go to Steyn City College in Fourways. My mom takes me to school and my dad fetches me every day at 2pm. Then we go on the golf course to practise until sunset, so it’s quite a few hours.
What are the best countries you’ve played golf in?
So far we have been to Australia, the US, England, Malaysia and Canada. I am looking forward to going to Italy and Brazil over the next few months.
Who are your heroes in golf and who would be in your dream fourball?
Tiger Woods is my role model and one day I hope I am lucky enough to meet him. I would love to play with Tiger, Rory Mcllroy and Louis Oosthuizen in a fourball, but I also like Dustin Johnson. The course would be Steyn City, which is the best I have played on.
What tees do you play off and what is your handicap?
I play off our junior tees and my handicap is one. Obviously, I want to get even better than that! I think my short game is the strongest part of my game.
What goes through your mind when you realise you are in contention to win?
I do not think about the actual winning at all. All I think about is being calm and hitting a good shot all the time. So, I hit one good shot and then concentrate on making another good one.
What television programmes do you watch and do you play eGames?
I watch golf and some movies on Netflix on TV and I play on my PS4 at times but don’t spend too much time in front of the screen.
What other sports do you play?
I enjoy soccer and tennis but golf is No 1. My favourite team is Barcelona FC.
What are your favourite foods and do you snack while you’re playing?
I love pasta! That is why I am looking forward to playing in Italy and seeing the country. I do have a snack now and then during a round of golf but I also drink a lot of water to stay hydrated and focused.
How do we follow your career on social media?
I am on Twitter (@tiger_sim), Instagram (Simthandilet1) and YouTube (Simthandile Tshabalala). I watch a bit of YouTube when I’m travelling!