November 2011

Siyanda earns a place in Ernie's Foundation

Siyanda Mwandla has been accepted into the EEFF from 2012

Two of South Africa's greatest golfers Ernie Els and Retief Goosen are good friends on and off the golf course. It also seems that they have a shared eye for talent.

Late last year, Goosen spotted the SAGDB's Siyanda Mwandla during a coaching clinic at the SA Open at Durban Country Club. He was so impressed with the young man's swing, that he fetched a brand new driver from the Taylormade equipment van and handed it to him on the spot.

Nearly a year later, Siyanda has now earned Els' recognition too through his acceptance into the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation from 2012. The 17-year old from the rural areas outside Umhlali in KwaZulu-Natal will be joining the elite foundation after impressing at the trials held at the Gardner Ross Golf Estate during September.

"He couldn't believe it when he heard that he had been accepted," said the SAGDB's development manager for KZN Joseph Kunene. "He is over the moon and really looking forward to improving his game."

The blossoming of Siyanda's talent has been quite exceptional, given that he only started playing golf in 2008. Although he had been caddying at Mandini Golf Club before that, it was only when he joined the SAGDB's programme that he had a chance to learn the game he now loves.

"Siyanda is really dedicated to his game," Kunene says. "He goes the extra mile to practice on his own on an open field near his house almost every day. He can only practice his iron shots because the area is too small to hit his driver."

"For him to get to Umhlali Golf Club, where he is a member, he needs to catch a taxi that costs R20. He can't travel often because he simply can't afford to. But he hasn't let that stop him from practicing. And now he's seeing how that practice pays off."

Siyanda is currently playing off a 1 handicap and is the top SAGDB player on their national order of merit. He also recently captained the KZN team to victory at the SA Games in Polokwane, and won the individual competition at the same event.

It's not only his golf that is impressive, however. Kunene is full of praise for Siyanda's focus on his studies too.

It seems that Siyanda is the complete package.

"Give this youngster two more years and he will go places in this game," Kunene asserts, echoing what Goosen had to say on that memorable day in Durban last year.

"Keep an eye out for him," the two-time US Open Champion said then. "He is going to develop into a great golfer."

Now Els and his foundation will have a close interest in ensuring that Goosen's prediction comes true.