DEREK McGowan can’t hide his enthusiasm when talking about Randpark. “It’s a phenomenal club with two phenomenal golf courses,” he says.
“There’s so much right about it – be it, in Francois, the best club manager in the country, be it the people in charge of the finances, be it the very special family atmosphere, be it management and the committees and the staff, the teaching pros here, be it the many league teams, the greenkeepers, be it the food, be it whatever – I mean, our chef, Sihle is phenomenal!”
Derek is, of course, the men’s Club Captain and therefore a visible “voice” of the club, and a good part of this job is being an important liaison person between the members and the committee. “People come up to you with something to say about the club and you need to listen to them and take it from there,” he explains.
Because of the lockdown we’ve been missing his broad smile up on the podium with microphone in hand on crowded and convivial Friday and Saturday evenings carrying out such duties as who’s won the lucky draw, and who’s earned the prizes in the club competitions. And, of course, making people laugh.
“But I think we’ll come out of this lockdown better than most because there’s so much commitment here,” he says. “The club runs smoothly because there’s a lot happening by committed people in the background.
I think it’s phenomenal (‘phenomenal’: he uses this word a lot … and, he believes, with good reason when talking about Randpark).”
A little about Derek’s background. Born in 1964 on this side of Johannesburg – when the road between Randpark Ridge and Honeydew was still gravel – he used to, as a little guy, sneak onto the Windsor course (the current Bushwillow which was the club’s only course in those days) by climbing the fence or coming on to the property via the drain (in those days there was a drain similar to what Parkview has today). He and his buddies, and his three brothers, would then hit a few balls or ride their bikes alongside the fairways. “Randpark was the only golf club I knew about in those days and the attraction was there right from the start,” he recalls.
Derek’s sporting upbringing, however, was primarily not golf but hockey where he reached country districts and provincial level standard as a player. He attended Northcliff High, played hockey for the school and then at club level for clubs like City Deep, Zoo Lake, Oblates, Durban Varsity (where he studied), Wanderers and Potch Old Boys (where his older brother studied so there was a connection).
“I used to argue with the umpire when I felt he was wrong. My father always told me that in order to get actively involved with something you need to know the job intimately.” So Derek learnt everything he could about hockey, and as his playing days, deep into Masters level, got less and less he became more and more involved in the admin and umpiring side of hockey, blowing the whistle in Premier League matches. Derek loved to be fully involved and has carried that love of involvement into helping run golf at Randpark.
As a golfer he first joined Leeuwkop before becoming a Randpark member 12 years ago. “Then about six years ago I was approached by a couple of members asking whether I’d like to stand for the committee. I did stand and got the nod. I was then thrown in at the deep end because junior golf became my portfolio. On Sundays I used to drive the youngsters around in the club bus to matches at the different clubs around Gauteng. It was great. On the way home we’d stop off at a McDonald’s for a hamburger and coke.” A lot of commitment and a lot of fun? “You bet,” he remembers.
Being on the committee gave Derek an eye of all that was happening at the club and his enthusiasm saw him in 2017 become Vice-Captain under Kevin du Preez. And after two years in that position he was elected Captain in the spring of last year. “I don’t have the big, booming, loud voice of Kevin but I’m so enjoying my term of office,” he says with a chuckle (and Derek laughs and smiles a lot which is a breath of fresh air in these uncertain times). One of his duties as Captain is to be in charge of the men’s “A” side in the scratch league at a club which, he says, possibly has more league teams – three in the scratch league along with the various sides of the women, mid-amateurs, seniors, juniors and betterball representatives – than any other club in South Africa.
The pandemic aside, it’s not unusual for Derek and his two golf-loving brothers Alan and Kevin (they have a sister Beverley and a fourth brother Paul who isn’t an active participant in frantically chasing around a little white ball) to be down at the club four or five times a week thoroughly enjoying each other’s company as well as the rich camaraderie that exists between fellow members here.
Skills-wise, Derek – with not too much of his red hair left on the top of his head (his mother is of Scandinavian descent so no doubt there’s a touch of the marauding Viking about him) – describes himself as a “middle-aged, average ability” golfer. “Of course I’ll always be trying to improve my golf but as a committee man and Club Captain, I’d love to be able to complete my term of office having made a positive difference to the club, no matter how small. That would give me the most satisfaction.”
Thanks for all that, Derek.
Finally, how does Club President Rean Strydom see Randpark’s Club Captain? “Derek’s doing a great job and is so enthusiastic about the club,” he says. Then, with a laugh and a twinkle in his eye, Rean adds: “lf only his golf matched this enthusiasm he’d be off scratch!”
Written by Randpark member Grant Winter.