To sustain a golf development initiative in previously disadvantaged communities takes more than a couple of coaches, some clubs and golf balls.
“To truly achieve results you have to take children that have never seen or touched a golf club and guide them through a coaching process to a point where they can hold their own on a golf course,” said SAGDB regional manager Joseph Kunene, who has been blazing a trail for golf development in KwaZulu Natal for the last decade.
It is no doubt a tough job to do, but one that became a little easier when the Ethekwini Municipality started sharing some of that burden.
“Golf development is a long term process and to really achieve a result, you have to have the support of a sponsor that believes in your programme as much as you do,” said Kunene. “Thanks to the continued and growing support of the Ethekwini Sport & Recreation Development Department we are able to take the young learners in our programme from complete novices to accomplished golfers. Having a committed sponsor makes all the difference.
“They started with a small sponsorship but it has grown in leaps and bounds and we are starting to produce some real future champions.”
Stars like Calvin Coelho, who captain the SAGDB national in an international tournament againstScotlandandSouth Africa’s top juniors and qualified for the President’s Team and the Under-23 KZN Interprovincial side. Or 19-year-old Phiwakahle Mkhoma, who triumphed at the 2011 Kwazulu-Natal Toyota Under-23 Championships in June and 16-year-old Siyanda Mwandla, who won the KZN Junior Alfred Country Champs in July.
“Calvin was one of the first learners in the programme; the others joined later but these boys all entered the SAGDB’s Development Programme as novices,”Kunenesaid. “Just look at how far they have come. It’s with the sustained support of a sponsor like Ethekwini Municipality that we were able to offer them opportunities to grow as golfers.”
Kunene explained that the Ethekwini Sport & Recreation Development Department first got involved with the SAGDB’s programme for junior golf development in July 2007.
“They started by sponsoring the development programme in the Inanda, Ntuzuma & KwaMashu areas,” he said. “Their sponsorship covered all our costs involving transport, meals and drinks, coaching fees and hiring golf balls at the driving ranges. These areas produced 12 junior girls and boys who are now members of golf clubs inDurbanand currently participating in the KZN Junior Golf Tournaments.”
In 2009, the Ethekwini Sport & Recreation Development Department increased their involvement to include areas in theSouthDurbanBasin, including Clairwood, Austerville and Merebank.
Again, the Ethekwini Municipality funds covered transport, meals and drinks and the cost of green fees at the local mashie course.
“In this chapter, we already have 30 players are ready to move to Level 3 and be introduced to normal golf courses,” said Kunene. “In May this year,EthekwiniMunicipalityexpanded their support to the Inanda rural areas andPhoenix. We now have 64 children from four different schools at Level 1 in the programme.
“EthekwiniMunicipalityhas proven that together we can do more. Together, we have introduced 134 new learners into the programme and, thanks to their funding, we are able to sustain 180 learners in the programme.
“Now we are just waiting with bated breath for other municipalities inKwaZulu-Natalto follow their lead and help us grow the game of golf at grassroots level in their areas.”
Ethekwini Municipality Manager: Sport & Recreation Development Teddi Adamshas been the driving force behind the initiative.
“To ensure the future of South African golf it is imperative to get young people interested in the sport as early as possible,” said Adams. “And that is why we have thrown our support behind the SAGDB’s programme. We hope to help the SAGDB to introduce record numbers of young people to the game.”
Like Kunene, Adams also hopes Ethekwini Municipality can encourage other municipalities to get involved.
“You have to present these youngsters with the chance to pick up a club at primary school level and I think it would be great if the SAGDB could expand their development programme to the same extent as they have done in Ethekwini in other districts like Amajuba, Ugu, Ilembe and Umgungundlovu. You never know; one of these young girls or boys could be a future Major winner.”
South African Golf Development Board www.sagolfboard.org