Four teenagers are among a large group of youngsters champing at the bit to start the 20th Canon South Africa Disabled Golf Open at Magalies Park Country Club from 14-16 May.
Deaf golfers Tembalani Mweli and Shangile Shange from KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Province’s Manuel Usher and Karel Mars from the Western Cape earned their start in the crown jewel of the South African Disabled Golf Association (SADGA) through the Go for Gold Programme.
‘Go for Gold is a reward programme that we launched four our deaf learners in the First Swing Programme (FSP) with the aim of encouraging them to earn national colours and represent South Africa abroad,’ said Lily Reich from SADGA.
‘The first goal is to get handicapped. Then they compete in our inter-provincial tournaments around the country for spots to play in the Canon South Africa Disabled Golf Open.
‘These four golfers have crossed the first hurdle and will be playing nine holes in each round. They have earned the opportunity to play with the best disabled golfers in South Africa and some top international competitors and this experience is priceless.
‘Last year, Kwazi Mahlangu, Wilfred de Bruin and Mpho Tlhatlha made their 9-hole debut and this year, they will be playing 18 holes in the main event. We are excited to see how the experience at King David Mowbray Golf Club last year will serve them in this year’s championship.’
At 13, Mahlangu is the youngest competitor in this year’s field. He loved his first taste of the Canon South Africa Disabled Golf Open and is excited to tee it up at Magalies Park.
‘We had a great time in Cape Town,’ said the Gauteng golfer. ‘It was fantastic to play in such a big tournament and we learned a lot from watching the top golfers. Playing 18 holes this year is great. We worked hard and we practiced a lot and we are excited to get started.’
The trio took a lot of courage from meeting fellow FSP members and coaches Charles Williams, Daren Hanekom, Shane le Roux, Marcello Koopman and Ignation Douries in Cape Town.
Douries competes in the Les Autres Division, while Williams, Hanekom, Le Roux and Koopman are among the leading deaf golfers in the country.
‘Charles, Daren and Ignation are currently doing the PGA Teaching Professional course and all three are FSP coaches in the Western Cape,’ said Reich. Charles and Daren coach hearing and non-hearing juniors and they have even taught the hearing kids to sign.
‘Ignation also teaches in Cape Town, while Marcello and Shane coach at two deaf institutions in Worcester, a disabled school and the Institute for the Blind. Charles is also an ambassador for the deaf and Western Province Vice-President of the international organisation Deaf Net.
“These young men are incredible role models for the young golfers in the FSP. During the Canon South Africa Disabled Golf Open they will mentor and guide our new competitors and work to inspire next generation.”
Owethu Tyibilika from Border – another FSP success story – also makes a welcome return to the flagship event this year.
‘Owethu was among the first youngsters to join the FSP and he graduated from Fort Hare University with a degree in Sport Management at the end of last year,’ said Reich. ‘We are very excited to have him in the field this year. It’s fantastic for our youngsters to meet people like Owethu, who shows them that with hard work, they can also overcome diversity.’
The youngsters can also look to Les Autres competitors Jabu Price-Moore from KwaZulu-Natal and Enrique van Wyk from Free State for encouragement. Price-Moore cut his handicap by eigth to nine and Van Wyk is down to 18, qualifying both to compete in the Medal Competition this year.
Corporate Communications and Marketing Executive, Canon SA (Pty) Ltd Dana Eitzen applauded the participation of the FSP learners.
‘Canon South Africa has been investing in the First Swing Programme for many years and it we are proud to host these up-and-coming golfers in the Canon South Africa Disabled Golf Open,’ Eitzen said. ‘The championship offers these young golfers the chance to compete in a major golf tournament were they can be inspired and motivated by many of the competitors, who have had to rebuild their lives following injuries that left them disabled.’
The 2018 Canon South Africa Disabled Golf Open has drawn a field of 72 competitors.
The championship is contested over 54 holes in various disability divisions including Leg Amputee, Arm Amputee, Multiple Amputee, Les Autres, Visually Impaired and Deaf. Trophies and prizes are awarded in all categories and the player with the lowest aggregate gross score wins the overall championship title.
Photo: SADGA coach Andrew Corthing with Sandile Shange and Thembelani Mweli (KZN), Manuel Usher from EP and Karel Mars from WP. Courtesy SAGDA