Retief Goosen is devastated at not being able to tee it up in this week’s US Open because of a back injury. But the double US Open champion admits that having a tournament at his home course in Polokwane does make it easier to deal with.
Goosen had to withdraw from this week’s major at Merion because of a bruised facet joint. It comes after his back surgery last year that kept him out of the game for five months.
“I’m really disappointed, especially because Merion is a course which I feel suits my game and because I was just starting to play well again,” Goosen said from his home. “I hope this is the last of my injuries because I’m really tired of it now.”
But Goosen will have the welcome distraction of a tournament at his home course of Polokwane Golf Club this week.
The Sunshine Tour returns to the Limpopo town for the first time in seven years with the R550 000 Polokwane Classic.
“It’s really an honour to have the Sunshine Tour back in Polokwane and to see our sponsors in Polokwane supporting golf in South Africa. Polokwane Golf Club is where I learnt my game from about the age of eight-years-old, and it’s always a great feeling for me when the professionals I know and some up-and-coming players go back there. It’s obviously a bit short for modern technology, but it’s still a great track,” Goosen said.
Goosen also runs his academy at Polokwane Golf Club, which is managed by Ray Earle, who was the president of the golf club when Goosen was still a junior there.
“I’m very proud of my academy there. Ray has done an unbelievable job of getting a lot of juniors into the game of golf. We’ve had some great juniors come out of there, and some have gone on to get scholarships in America.”
Earle remembers the days he spent driving Goosen and the other juniors to tournaments.
“He was one of about five juniors at the time who were really talented. I drove them all over to tournaments. Then all of a sudden, when Retief turned 16, he was in a different league to the other juniors. They couldn’t catch him. Something clicked in him and from then on he was our number one.”
The development focus of the Polokwane Classic is a strong one, and it’s relying heavily on Goosen’s status to help convince the region’s golfers that success is not limited to the major centres in South Africa.
“We are extremely proud of Retief Goosen and his achievements. We are in regular contact with him through his foundation, and his family has been instrumental in assisting us to make this tournament happen. We hope to give young people in Polokwane and from the surrounding areas the opportunity to also emulate what Retief has done, and we want this tournament to celebrate his legacy and what he has done for the city of Polokwane,” said Polokwane executive mayor Freddy Greaver.
It’s a message that isn’t lost on the likes of South Africa’s top-ranked amateur Haydn Porteous. “Coming from where he has to what he is today shows the rest of us that you don’t have to be financially advantaged to achieve. It gives hope to golfers from some of the other smaller provinces.”
By Michael Vlismas