September 2011

Crown Mines and Ostle set benchmark in Central Gauteng

The SAGDB's head coach for the Northern Provinces, Stephan van der Watt, at a coaching session at Crown Mines

Since the SAGDB rolled out its programme countrywide in 1999, golf development in provinces such as Gauteng North, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Province, Border, Western Province and Free State has grown in leaps and bounds. However, for one reason or another, the programme never really got a proper footing in Central Gauteng.

Andy Ostle, the newly appointed development manager for the region, is determined to change that.

"My involvement in golf administration stretches back over the last 20 years and in that time, golf development has always been the closest to my heart," he explained. "I was able to get some things off the ground through my involvement in the Central Gauteng Golf Union, but my efforts were always hampered by time constraints and other obligations."

"Now, thanks to the SAGDB, I can devote myself to this full time and it is a huge inspiration to get things off the ground properly here in Central Gauteng."

According to Ostle, there are a large number of schools in the region that don't have an active golf programme yet and many golf clubs that are keen to get involved.

"It's just a question of 'marrying' the two," he said. "A lot of golf clubs in Central Gauteng already have a healthy number of junior golfers but they acknowledge that there is room for growth. Most of the clubs here want to get involved, but just need some guidelines in terms of the requirements to get a programme off the ground. My aim is to get coaches into those schools who don't have a programme and consolidate them with the courses in the area to get the SAGDB programme off the ground and growing."

One of the first clubs Ostle approached in his new capacity was Crown Mines Golf Club. The Nasrec-based club immediately came on board.

The club already had a strong programme for its junior members, established under their club professional Johan Buitendag. They also host the Soweto Junior team for their home games in the Central Gauteng Junior League.

Club manager Charl Steyn explained that Buitendag began coaching Soweto's Evans Vukeya of the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation and up-and-coming junior Kyle Thomas, a youngster from the area who otherwise would not have been able to play golf.

"It was the progress these two youngsters were making that really motivated us to increase their involvement in golf development and Andy approached us at the most opportune time," he said.

"We were looking into expanding our involvement to bring golf to more children from less affluent families, so we invited the SAGDB to use our practice facilities. The Elite Squad, who mainly come from Soweto, now receive training here every Monday from Northern Provinces coach Stephan van der Watt. In time, Johan hopes to get more involved with the SAGDB programme as well."

Steyn said the additional usage soon highlighted the current shortfalls of the practice facilities and spurred some big plans for improvement.

"We annually host a Crown Mines Golf Day to raise funds for improvements at the club," he explained. "We took a decision to set aside the money raised this year specifically for upgrading our practice facilities. We want to improve the putting and chipping greens, as well as the layout and aesthetics of the driving range, so they work better for everyone."

The Crown Mines Golf Day will be held on 8 October. Steyn said the golf day is an all day affair and traditionally draws around 200 to 250 participants.

"We already have companies like Nokia, Makro, The Golf Place and De-Allende Enterprises on board as sponsors and they fully endorse our involvement with the SAGDB and our plans for the practice facilities. We are also going to allocate four spots to SAGDB players in the field, to give them a chance to gain some competitive experience."

Steyn said the club is hopeful to start renovations and improvements in November. Ostle is delighted with the progress made in such a short time, but pointed out that there is a long way to go yet.

"We have identified areas where we want to get the SAGDB programme up and running, but we have to remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint," he said. "It is important to me to get every project up and running properly to ensure longevity, sustainability and value before moving to the next. However, if we can get the same kind of commitment, support and enthusiasm from other clubs as we have from Crown Mines, we will bring Gauteng Central in line with the rest of the country. That much we can promise."