MALALANE – A group of young golfers is impressing the golfing community with their achievements, both local and nationally.
The South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB), founded in 1999 by Johann Rupert, and the Riverside Farm Golf Project initiated in 2013, have made a profound difference in the lives of these children, according to SAGDB coach, Samuel Lukhele.
He was a caddie at Malelane Golf Club, where the SAGDB recognised his talents and asked him to become a coach.
Lukhele currently coaches 42 children and was recently joined by Samuel Duma Mahlalela. Lukhele teaches the fundamental and learning to play phase (children six and older). Mahlalela will teach the under-sixes basic movements like hopping, skipping, jumping and throwing.
The majority of the children live on Riverside Farm and two are the children of Leopard Creek staff members. “A lot of people in the Nkomazi area want to bring their kids but the problem is that they are staying far from the farm, where the kids get the training. But we don’t accept kids who don’t go to school instead we make some arrangements and get him or her to school,” Lukhele explains.
The children practice from 16:00 to 18:00 and learn to play golf and about its disciplines, about respect, perseverance, hard work, teamwork, good behaviour and life skills, which improves their schoolwork and other areas of their life.
The learners showcase their skills at local, provincial and national tournaments. Three of the children have represented Mpumalanga in junior tournaments and Lucia Mhlabane recently won the Lalapalm Golf Tournament at Malelane Golf Club.
Dimpho Mhlongo and Boitumelo Mashego represented Mpumalanga in the Nomads Rose Bowl 2017 at the Royal Durban Golf Club. SA Womens Golf was very generous and paid for the girls to fly to Durban. It was the first time either of them boarded an airplane and it was thrilling experience.
The next event they will compete in is the Malelane Junior Open on June 11.
Since joining the project the children have improved their golf handicaps, schoolwork and standard of living. Lukhele says the whole community are very happy about what the Project and SAGDB is doing for the kids and their future.
The Riverside Farm Golf Project has been one of the major success stories of golf development in South Africa and Lukhele said it has changed and saved their lives.
“Dimpho Mhlongo and I nearly died in separate incidents, but the SAGDB immediately sent us to the special doctors. Everyone who is part of the project is sent to the special doctor if they are sick, the SAGDB buys food for the kids to eat every day and Cara Treherne helps the kids with their school work and other social issues. I want to pass my great thanks to Mr and Mrs Rupert and their associates for their ongoing financial support, the SAGDB, South African Golf Association, Women’s Golf SA, Leopard Creek Golf Club, Malelane Golf Club, NOVASUN Golf Club, Kambaku Golf Club, my Coaches and everyone who supports this journey of our little ones.”
Lukhele’s advice to aspiring young golf players was to work hard at school so that they can make something of themselves in the future and to diligently practice golf to improve their skill level. He urged them to be disciplined, persevere, respect, accept and be the role models.