Darren Clarke has always been passionate about South Africa, from early in his career when he was playing and winning here, to the time he always sets aside to take part in the annual Joburg Open golf development clinic.
The Open champion and now European Ryder Cup captain is the man in the spotlight at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club this week for the ninth Joburg Open, which tees off on Thursday.
But on Wednesday he showed he is just as comfortable on the Alexandra Driving Range and spending time with his fellow professionals teaching close to one hundred disadvantaged children the basics of golf.
“That’s why we’re here, because the game has been very good to us, and to give a little back is very important,” said Clarke.
“From the age of nine I had every opportunity to go out and play as much as I wanted, and my parents supported me. The kids here don’t have that opportunity. So anytime they get a chance to hit some balls is even more special for them.”
Clarke has always supported the golf development clinics he is asked to conduct in South Africa, and says it always impresses him the raw talent he sees.
“They’re all so keen and they listen well. Sometimes we do clinics and the kids don’t really listen, but every time we come to South Africa they really listen to what you have to say and what you are teaching them.
“They want to learn, and they’re having fun doing it. And I’ve seen a few really good swings again, as always. The Sunshine Tour is working hard to make sure these kids have opportunities to practice, because golf is a game that teaches all aspects of life. It’s hard work. No matter what opportunities you have to become a tour professional of any level is very difficult. It takes a lot of hard work, determination and a strong mindset.
“But without development initiatives such as this we’re not going to find the future stars of South African golf.”
Story: Michael Vlismas; Picture: Tyrone Winfield/Perfect Exposure