With its rich sporting history and a sports-mad population, the Eastern Cape is often hailed as the centre of sports development in South Africa. Just consider some of the country’s greatest success stories, such as cricketers Makhaya Ntini, Ashwell Prince, Mzwandile Stick, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Wayne Parnell, Alviro Petersen and Cecil Afrika, rugby exports Siya Kolisi and the twins Odwa and Akona Ndugane, and Bafana Bafana standouts Daine Klate and Kermit Erasmus. It is, therefore, rather surprising that the vast region has not produced any global golf stars beyond multiple Sunshine Tour champions, Ulrich Van Der Berg and James Kamte.
In recent years, a number of amateur golfers have entered and advanced through the South African Golf Development Board’s programme. Andile Adam, Fezekile Kana, Zetu Myeki, Lusanda Dikileyo, Kim and Jamie Lee Daniels and Thobani Bilitane are just some of the rising stars that have begun to carve out a name for themselves on provincial, and even national level. Africa Sports Holdings CEO Khaya Ngqula believes more can be done.
To this end, the Eastern Cape native and founder of the Sunshine and European Tour co-sanctioned Africa Open has teamed up with local business and Alexander Golf and Country Club to give golf development in the Eastern Cape region another major boost. “We have launched a series of amateur tournaments geared to draw more youngsters to the game. As a sport, golf provides a unique platform to develop a wide set of skills in children. It teaches perseverance, endurance and skill. Its rules and regulations shape and sustain a culture of integrity, confidence, respect and achievement. We want to impart these principles to the youth, promote competition among young and old, and raise awareness about the game, so that in a few years, this region will start producing international champions like Ulrich and James,” Ngqula said.
The Eastern Cape Winter Development Swing series consists of five tournaments. The series launched on 22 March with the Amathole Invitational Golf Challenge, and will be followed by the Wings Easter Golf Classic and the BCM Open on 19 April and 24 May respectively. The Eastern Cape Youth Challenge on 16 June will be limited to players under 21 years of age, in reference to Youth Day.
“Ulrich and James will host our final event, the Future Champions Challenge, in an effort to give back to development,” Ngqula said. All five tournaments will be contested in three divisions and carry total prize money of R7,000 each. In addition to prizes in each division, there will also be prizes for holes-in-one, longest drive, nearest the pin on all par-threes and golf accessories.
The A-division will cater for handicaps nine and under, the B-division for 10-15 handicaps and the C-division for 16-24 handicaps. Entry fees are R150 for adults and R50 for golfers under 18.
Ngqula said, “Alexander Golf and Country Club is home to the South African Golf Development Board’s Lathitha Chapter and will host all the full Eastern Cape Winter Development Swing series. We hope to get local business involved to take up branding opportunities so we can raise the necessary sponsorship to extend this initiative into the spring and summer. Regular competition does not only benefit the lower handicap players, but gives the developing players the platform to improve. And we want to encourage the parents to accompany their children, which is why we have done a deal with Wings for accommodation packages at R185 per night.”
Photos: Ulrich Van Den Berg and James Kamte
Photo credit: Sunshine Tour