Walters gunning for birdies at Telkom PGA Championship

Justin Walters hopes to give away a lot of money this week and is counting on the Woodmead course to dish up the usual birdie fest professionals have come to expect during the annual Telkom PGA Championship at Country Club Johannesburg.

While he will be hunting birdies to aid his own cause in the tournament, Walters also wants to boost his red numbers for the Hope for George campaign.

The 32-year-old has pledged to donate R500 for each birdie he makes in the tournament, or a percentage of his winnings, whichever is more, to assist with diagnosis and medical bills of 26-year-old George van Hooff.

“I heard about George from my caddie, Don Black,” explained Walters. “George has gone from a fit, healthy man that did rock-climbing, skydiving and played golf to a shadow of his former self in just a few months.”

In 2011, Van Hooff took contract work in Northern Africa to supplement his savings.

“He was saving up to attend the prestigious 43rd Air School in Port Alfred,” Walters explained. “A few months after he got back, he started suffering headaches and dizziness. Soon, he couldn’t even move or get out of bed. George is virtually paralysed and his hopes are slim. He has had just about every test done, but no-one has been able to make a diagnosis. In fact, his tests have now been forwarded to doctors in the United States and the family are waiting in hope that someone will be able to solve this mystery.”

Walters explained that he was inspired by Black and his brothers, who will be running the South African Ironman in April to raise awareness and funds for the Hope for George campaign, to boost the fund from the golf course.

“They have raised almost R40,000 already from people sponsoring the run and they hope more people will come on board and sponsor them for each kilometre they run,” he said.

“I also wanted to help, because this touched my heart. My mom is currently fighting cancer and I know how this affects a family. In addition to the emotional toll it takes on you, there are also the bills that add to the stress and pressure.

“Playing at the Telkom PGA Championship this week, I can make a contribution while raising awareness for George. Hopefully, people will see the sticker on my bag, and reach into their pockets.”

Mark Tullo of Chile joined the cause during the Tshwane Open and this week, fellow professionals Neil Schietekat and Colin Nel are following suit.

“It doesn’t matter that we don’t know George,” said Schietekat. “We are fit and healthy and playing in a world-class golf tournament, while this guy, at 26, has lost almost everything. It could have been me, it could have been Justin or Colin. What matters is that we have an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life doing what we love at the Telkom PGA Championship this week.”

By Lali Stander

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