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1st November 2023

Driving a message of hope through golf

KNYSNA, Western Cape – The 12-year-old girl who was part of the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) children and the Sunshine Tour professionals at Wednesday’s Vodacom Origins of Golf clinic on the Pezula Championship Course did what she always does when she receives her food parcel. She put it aside, to take home to her family.

It didn’t surprise Johan Erasmus, the SAGDB Development Manager for the Southern Cape who has worked in the grassroots growth of the game for 20 years, and which the Vodacom Origins of Golf series has also supported for the same amount of time through clinics such as this.

“She does that with all the food parcels we hand out. She takes it back home to her brother,” he said.

It was another powerful reminder of what the partnership between the Vodacom Origins of Golf series, the Sunshine Tour and the SAGDB has meant to children who by society’s standards should have no future, but who through golf can still have hope.

“These kids come from difficult situations where golf can really change their lives. When some of our kids join the programme and get to a golf club, for many it’s the first time they’ve ever seen a bathroom. When they travel with us to tournaments, it’s the first time some of them have ever slept in a proper bed,” said Erasmus.

“I love seeing what golf can do for the kids. It goes far beyond hitting a golf club. We always say that if we work with one thousand children, maybe one will become a professional golfer one day. But the values and lessons they learn in golf they can take back to their communities, and that’s our real success. If we can change one child’s life and start a chain reaction that changes a community, then we’ve achieved something.”

It’s a vision that aligns perfectly with Vodacom’s own commitment to hold an SAGDB golf clinic at every single Vodacom Origins of Golf tournament around the country.

“It’s about creating hope for these children to see that if they follow this path they can get themselves out of their situations,” said Martha Lamola, acting CEO of Vodacom Business.

“They might not all be professional golfers one day, but this gives them that hope to realise, ‘I can also be somebody’. Our communities are challenged, and anywhere where we can shine a light is the biggest thing we can do for them.”

It’s also exactly what keeps driving Erasmus and his team.

“If we have a tournament in Knysna or Plettenberg Bay, then we leave home at 3am and start picking up the kids along the way. It’s all worth it when you see how much they enjoy the game. A day like this with Vodacom and the Sunshine Tour is a day when they are away from the reality of their difficult circumstances, and they have an opportunity to change their lives.”

It was exactly such an opportunity that changed the life of Franklin Manchest who came through this very programme on his journey to now competing on the Sunshine Tour.

“Franklin grew up in a house just behind the home of one of our coaches, and he saw our coach chipping golf balls. That’s how he became interested in the game. Now Franklin is playing on the Sunshine Tour. If you look at where Franklin grew up, he wouldn’t have had that opportunity to make it in life if it wasn’t for golf.”

This week’s tournament is the final on this year’s Vodacom Origins of Golf series, with the Sunshine Tour professionals competing from Thursday to Sunday on the Pezula Championship Course. – Michael Vlismas