Joburg Open tees off with development clinic

If Gary Player is the world’s most travelled athlete, then Johannesburg professional Teboho Sefatsa owns the car that has probably travelled the most on the Sunshine Tour. But even he was astounded at the lengths to which the children who attended Tuesday’s development clinic at the Joburg Open will go to play golf.

Sefatsa joined a group of professionals from the European and Sunshine Tours at the Alexandra Driving Range as part of the traditional development clinic ahead of this week’s tournament at the Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club.

About 80 children from the surrounding area were given a basic introduction to the game.

Having grown up in the township of Katlehong east of Johannesburg, Sefatsa understands the challenges faced by children in impoverished areas who would like to take up golf.

“I find there’s a lot of interest in golf in the townships, but the financial backing is still a problem,” said Sefatsa, who has yet to receive major backing of his own career and drives to tournaments in a 1989 Jetta.

“I bought it from my brother in 1998, and then it already had 300 000km on the clock. The clock stopped working then, so you can imagine how many kilometres it has done. And it’s still going like a dream on the same engine.”

Despite the challenges he faced as a child, Sefatsa went on to gain provincial colours for cricket, rugby and golf.

It was when he was selected to join the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation that he decided to focus on golf.

“It takes development clinics like this to unearth more talent in the townships,” he said. “In Katlehong I see kids who are so interested in golf that they’re even using old hickory-shafted clubs to play with. And we’ve got a park there where some of the locals built a nine-hole mashie course. So the interest is there.”

English professional Barry Lane was also part of the clinic.

“It’s amazing to be able to give back like this. I was instructing three girls who walk an hour to this facility every Saturday so they can practice.”

Lane recalled a trip to China last year where he conducted a similar clinic. “Of the 54 children there, the highest handicap was seven and the oldest child was 18. They have fantastic development programmes there.”

“The organiser of the clinic was telling me that their philosophy is simple – they give the kids a choice: a rice field or a career in golf. If the kids have a choice and an opportunity, they’ll grab it.”

By Michael Vlismas

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