As world golf’s prize money increases to record levels this year and the privileges in the professional game do so as well, there are still those who wake up at 5am to make sandwiches for a group of kids they will later collect in some of the poorest areas, and take them to play golf in the hope it will also change their lives.
Some of those kids, as part of the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB), were at the SDC Championship at St Francis Links earlier this week for a golf clinic with the professionals who have gathered in this seaside village for a historic first Sunshine Tour and DP World Tour co-sanctioned tournament at this course.
They are a constant reminder of the power of the game at its core to transform lives.
Granwell Gelderbloem, the coach of the Gqeberha Chapter of the SAGDB and specifically the Varsvlei and Kuyga areas, knows this as well because he was one of these kids. And that memory is what drives his passion for the work he does with the SAGDB.
“I do it because I was one of these kids,” he says. “I was also a young golfer and my mother wasn’t working so I know the process and the struggles. I was also blessed to have people support me and give me pocket money for tournaments.
“I live in Sanctor in Gqeberha, and the field where I started playing golf is just behind my house. There is gangsterism in the areas where these kids grow up, or they just hang around the streets asking for money and eventually get involved in selling drugs for the gangs.
“This game is keeping them off the streets. The photos and videos we are able to show the parents in these communities of the clinics we do at Sunshine Tour events make them send their kids to us to learn the game.”
Like so many of the SAGDB coaches and managers around the country, Gelderbloem is totally immersed in his desire to see these kids use golf to impact everything from their social circumstances to their academic performance.
“Sometimes you have to be a parent to them because not all of the kids have parents who are involved. Often when the kids come to a tournament they haven’t had a meal, so we make them food ourselves or we have sponsors who help us. My mother and her friends actually help to make food for some of the kids.
“We have sponsors or parents who help us to pick up the kids from their homes and transport them. Often we start at 5am to get the kids together and get them to tournaments or to courses to practice.”
It’s with the constant hope of something better that golf can provide these kids that Gelderbloem and his team wake up in the morning and do their work. And for the moment, the kids they teach are not playing for trophies or ranking points. On any given afternoon, they may just play for a bag of crisps or a lollipop.
“It’s just a little extra motivation for them. I’ll give that to the winner or maybe the top three will each get a lollipop,” says Gelderbloem, who knows that on this afternoon, that’s one less kid on the streets and one more on a golf course.
By Michael Vlismas