For the last five years, the annual golf development clinic has been one of the main activities around the annual Africa Open Golf Challenge in Buffalo City.
The clinic sets the tone for a tournament that draws a host of future champions and grassroots players from South Africa and abroad and provides the platform for the next generation of young golfers to watch rising stars aspiring to become champions themselves.
Nearly 100 learners from the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) between the ages of six and 18 turned out for this yearÂs clinic, which was held at Alexander Country Club during the third round of the Â1-million Sunshine and European Tour co-sanctioned tournament.
The learners received one-on-one instruction from SAGDB Border head coach Michelle de Vries and her assistant coaches Ben Jonas, Bongani Yaba and Richard Dikileyo, a former member of the SAGDB who now coaches in the Duncanville Township.
The Africa Open has a proud association with the SAGDB, the only recognised official body tasked with golf development by all South AfricaÂs official golfing bodies, amateur and professional, and is endorsed by the R&A and Sports & Recreation SA. In 2012, the tournament donated R150,000 through the Richer Future Foundation to specifically assist SAGBD Border regional manager, Millie Zim, to start the Lathitha Chapter at Alexander Country Club in Greenfields.
Zim said that since the Africa Open became a permanent fixture at East London Golf Club, golfÂs profile has exploded in Buffalo City.
ÂThe interest from the younger generation peaked, especially after Louis OosthuizenÂs back-to-back victories,Â Zim explained. ÂThe donation helped us to establish the Lathitha Chapter following last yearÂs Africa Open. We currently have nearly 50 learners enrolled in level one of our programme, mainly from the George Randall Primary and High Schools and the Kuswag Primary School, as well a couple of children from members of Alexander Country Club.
ÂSome of the learners have made incredible progress; in fact, two of our Lathitha learners Logan Roos and Jaden Joubert were chosen to represent Border at the Under-11 Inter-Provincial last year. Jaden finished second in the individual competition and Logon third and the Border team finished second overall.Â
The first major contributors of the Richer Future Foundation, launched in 2011, were Retief Goosen, Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen and Northern IrelandÂs Darren Clarke. Africa Open chairman Khaya Ngqula said the SAGDB was a natural choice for the sponsorship.
ÂThe SAGDB received this sponsorship because their values and our vision for golf development are synonymous,Â Ngqula said.
ÂThe organisation aims to make golf accessible to all South Africans by providing and facilitating practice and playing opportunities for learners from all communities including the underprivileged and previously disadvantaged communities. We want to assist that process.Â
Since the SAGDB launched the Border Chapter in 2000, the region has become one of its success stories.
Nearly 30 learners have earned junior provincial colours, while Yolanda Duma, Lwazi Gqira and Thabo Jim all achieved Under-23 and Senior provincial colours.
Zethu Myeki, Lusanda Dikileyo and Siviwe Duma have been accepted into the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation.
In December last year, Masibulele ÂTigerÂ Vamsinya made his debut in the Border team at Junior SA Inter-Provincial team and 15-year-old Chuma Adonis from Westbank was selected to the SAGDB Elite National Squad in 2013.
Tickets to this yearÂs Africa Open are available at the gate. Entry is free for children under 18 on Thursday and Friday and R5 for Saturday and Sunday. Adults also enter for free on Thursday and Friday and tickets cost R25 per day on the weekend.
Article: Lali Stander/ Michael Vlismas Media