By Michael Vlismas
Picture: Tyrone Winfield
English professional Lee Slattery embraced the “It’s more than just Golf” theme of the Tshwane Open when he joined nine other European and Sunshine Tour professionals and 65 schoolchildren in the tournament’s official golf clinic in Mabopane on Wednesday.
This is the third year of the golf clinic but the second year in succession that it has been hosted at the Mabopane Driving Range on the outskirts of Pretoria. And while the focus is on teaching the basic skills of the game, Slattery identified another element of why such clinics remain a successful partnership between the visiting golfers and the community.
“When I was asked to do this I jumped at the chance just to see more of the local culture. As professional golfers we are very well travelled, but we’re also probably the least travelled because we just see the golf course and the hotel in the countries we’re in, and we rarely see much of the local culture. So this was a great chance to come out and see the kids and a bit more of the City of Tshwane.
“And clearly you’ve got some serious talent here. I’m surprised at how strong these kids are. They hit the ball a long way and they don’t miss the ball very often, which you don’t tend to see a lot of at these clinics.”
Slattery’s assessment of the talent on display was an endorsement of the work done by the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) coaches in the region. Tshwane is one of the most active golf development regions in the country, with two chapters catering for close to 200 children from Klipgat, Soshanguve, Mabopane, Hillside, Akasia and Kilner Park.
It’s already produced its first star in 16-year-old Kifentse Nukeri, who came through the ranks here and now represents Gauteng North at under-19 and under-23 level. And 16 of these children have also gone on to become fulltime members at golf clubs in the city. The SAGDB also assists the South African Disabled Golf Association’s development efforts with 88 of their young golfers in three different schools in the city.
MMC Nozipho Tyobeka-Makeke reiterated this greater vision of the Tshwane Open.
“We are most grateful to the professionals who have helped us to invest in our youth. This tournament is about helping to foster inclusiveness in the communities that make up the City of Tshwane. We want to be a sporting mecca in not only hosting major events such as this, but seeing them impact on the people of this city in a positive way. The children that attended the clinic will be the ones who truly reap the benefits of our Vision 2055 for the city.”