By Michael Vlismas
They are generally not the multimillionaires you see on your television screens from Thursday to Sunday each week. They don’t often own aeroplanes or live in gated communities in Florida, and are rarely known only by first names such as Ernie, Retief, Tiger or Phil.
But this week’s Telkom Business PGA Championship at Country Club Johannesburg will pay homage to the PGA professionals who are committed to keeping South African golf healthy and teaching the future stars.
This R3,750,000 tournament combines a field of Sunshine Tour professionals who travel the world playing the game, and the PGA of South Africa professionals who can be found at golf courses around the country running pro shops and giving golf lessons.
So this week European Tour champion and former Telkom Business PGA Championship winner George Coetzee will be teeing it up in the same field as Derek James, the PGA Professional of the Year.
“The Telkom Business PGA Championship brings together the PGA professionals and the elite tour professionals of the Sunshine Tour who have all benefited from the contribution of a PGA professional to their personal growth in the game at a golf club or golf coaching level,” says Ivano Ficalbi, the Chief Executive of the PGA of South Africa.
“This is the PGA’s flagship tournament and it allows us to promote our members and the work they do. The PGA brand is one of the most recognised brands in golf worldwide. Our job is not to grow the game of golf but rather ensure that PGA members are trained in all aspects of the golf industry to assist the relevant bodies or development projects in delivering successful projects.”
One of these projects is the drive to encourage golf as a school sport through the Grow Golf Zone that was introduced at last year’s Telkom Business PGA Championship.
“The Grow Golf Zone promotes the PGA’s Long Term Athletic Development Golf Program that has been developed to encourage golf as a school sport and to encourage non-golfers attending the championship to possibly learn the game,” said Ficalbi.
Victory in this championship remains one of the most sought after prizes for South African professionals.
As South Africa’s second-oldest professional tournament, it has been won by the greats of Southern African golf, including Bobby Locke, Gary Player, Ernie Els, Nick Price, Mark McNulty, Dale Hayes and David Frost.
And from Thursday this week, Jaco van Zyl will attempt to claim a third title following his triumphs in 2009 and 2013.