The Eastern Cape – South Africa’s second-largest province – has numerous world-class golf courses and a great passion for the game.
But there are many people who love the game and could contribute greatly to the entire golfing ecosystem, but who need greater support and access to the sport.
The South African Golf Development Board facilitates practice and playing opportunities for learners and talented players from underprivileged communities. The Vodacom Origins of Golf series plays an important role in the work of the SAGDB by setting up clinics with the professionals playing in their events. On Tuesday, 18 children from the Humansdorp, Arcadia, Asbekkies and Sea Vista areas were exposed to golf coaching at the St Francis Links, where the latest Pro-Am in the series is being played.
Frans de Kock is the regional manager of the SAGDB for the Eastern Province and has been involved in golf development since 2007. He coached his own son, Allister de Kock, to Sunshine Tour professional level, and now he is ploughing that knowledge and passion back into the community.
“I’ve always loved golf since I grew up near the Wedgewood Golf Course in PE, I used to caddy and fell in love with the game from day one,” De Kock Snr says.
“After getting my son Allister to the level he’s at, I know what’s needed for youngsters to succeed and those methods will also work with these kids.
“I go to township schools and we’re mostly introducing golf to these children. The challenges are that some think it’s an easy game and then drop off when they discover it’s not, but mostly we have social issues to contend with. I always say the kids are here to learn to play golf, but they must first learn all their schoolwork. They need to learn to be self-supporting.
“We have 146 youngsters in all in our programme and it’s always a challenge getting them on to golf courses. But Vodacom always provides us with good opportunities and I’m sure something good will come out of today’s clinic as well.”
Some of the local talent that might have been missed but has been nurtured by the SAGDB includes Johndre Ludick, who has just represented GolfRSA in the Italian U16 Championship and Devon Valentine, a member of the SAGDB national squad.
But the importance golf plays in shaping the careers of people off the course as well should not be overlooked.
St Francis Links PGA pros Christo Kugel and Norman Riley speak fondly of how their regular community development work is an avenue to enrich lives and not just produce golfers. The proof of that is the youngster who was introduced to golf and ended up becoming a firefighter, or even Clyde Loggenberg, the club barman.
He was employed as a ball-spotter in the PGA Championship last year at St Francis Links, fell in love with the game and impressed everyone at the club so much that he is now working there full time.
“I never looked at golf before that, I was more a rugby and soccer guy, but my love for golf has just grown. I meet so many golfers and learn from them, and now and then I can borrow clubs and actually get out and play.
“I used to work on the cruise ships in Europe, but this opportunity is one of the best things to ever happen to me, at one of the best golf clubs in the country,” the father of two from Humansdorp says.