The South African Open hosted by the City of Joburg has this year reached deep into the heart of an entire generation of children hungry to learn the game of golf, and it’s something the tournament’s Player-Host Louis Oosthuizen is equally passionate about.
At the same time that defending champion Oosthuizen was speaking to the international media about giving children more access to golf facilities, his words were being given real expression on the Randpark Golf Club driving range through the City of Joburg’s ongoing efforts to do exactly this.
On Wednesday, a total of 65 children from the townships of Soweto, Alexandra and Diepsloot took part in a golf clinic with several Sunshine Tour and European Tour professionals.
“The biggest challenge is for kids to just get to a golf course where they can practice and play,” said Oosthuizen.
“I was fortunate to grow up in Albertinia and have a golf course right there. It was about 400 yards from school so I would walk there in the afternoons and hit balls. Kids need to have a place to play golf. Fortunately, in South Africa we do have academies and foundations that help to grow the game.”
The golf clinic was another significant moment in the growth of the game during a week that started on an historic note when the championship’s pro-am was played at Soweto Country Club for the first time.
At a professional level, when the main tournament tees off on Thursday the field will feature six golfers from the Gary Player Class, the Sunshine Tour’s talent identification squad for historically disadvantaged professionals, who have been given invitations by the City of Joburg to participate in the championship. They are Dwayne Basson, Thabiso Ngcobo, Franklin Manchest, Keelan van Wyk, Makhetha Mazibuko and Musiwalo Nethunzwi.
And four young golfers – two from Soweto Country Club and two from Diepsloot – have been given the opportunity to spend the week inside the ropes with the professionals and experience the South African Open as Honorary Observers.
“This is all very exciting for us,” said Bongi Mokaba, Director Event Management for The City of Joburg and Promoter of the South African Open.
“A few years ago, The City of Joburg targeted sports that were considered elite, such as golf, for development. At Soweto Country Club, the children play for free because we understand the backgrounds they come from. We also have a South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) chapter in Soweto. And all of these children here at the golf clinic are proof that golf is growing in Johannesburg. There can be no doubt about that.”
By Michael Vlismas.