September 2011

Golf is more than just a sport, says Dikileyo

Richard Dikileyo (back left) with some of the girls in the SAGDB programme

Golf development coach Richard Dikileyo believes there is more to golf than pristinely manicured courses, precision equipment and a stellar technique.

"Golf is a vehicle for teaching life skills," says Dikileyo from East London. "Learning golf teaches children the values of integrity, honesty, leadership and better self-esteem. Golf also gives them an understanding of the challenges that come with the sport and life."

Dikileyo believes teaching children strong values should start at home, but often parents are not equipped as role models and here the SAGDB has a big role to play.

"The challenges you face on the golf course are reflected in the real difficulties of life. When you have a water hazard on the course, how do you deal with it? Do you just plod ahead or do you think about the consequences of your actions? Golf gives you the tools to cope with everyday life. It teaches children to evaluate and plan."

A former caddie-turned-coach with more than 20 years experience in the industry, Dikileyo joined the SAGDB programme in 2003. Alongside with fellow coaches Ben Jonas and Bongani Yaba, he has spent the last eight years honing the lives of hundreds of learners under the direction of head coach and former professional Michelle de Vries.

"Richard was already involved in coaching when I first met him," explains De Vries. "I found him coaching eight children from Duncan Villiage at Alexandra Golf Club while he was still a caddie. He said he wanted to keep the kids off the streets and I was immediately impressed with his dedication."

"In all the years he has been with us in the programme, he has lost none of his dedication and passion."

Dilikeyo currently coaches 43 learners from Makinana Primary School and the impoverished township of Duncan Village.

"I became involved with the programme because the SAGDB's values are the same as my own," says the 36-year-old. "We're trying to give kids a solid foundation in any venture they undertake. We know that not every child in the programme will become the next Ernie Els or Retief Goosen, but all of them will learn the values that golf teaches. We are committed to impacting the lives of young people in a positive way."

Lwazi Gqira, one of Dillikeyo's first pupils, represented South Africa at the Toya Polish Junior Championship in June. The 18-year-old from Duncan Village says when he first took up golf, he didn't much care for it, but through Dikileyo his passion grew.

And, says Gqira, his coach taught him much more than how to swing a club or sink a putt.

"Coach taught us that we should not smoke, abuse alcohol or use drugs," says Gqira. "He taught us that, through golf, we can rise above our circumstances."

Eastern Cape regional manager Millie Zim describes Dilikeyo is a dream coach.

"Not only is he very passionate about his job, but he is an excellent role model and very dedicated," she says. "You only have to look at his own sons, who are both in our Elite Programme, to see the kind of person he is. Richard doesn't just teach our learners the basics of golf. He cares about every child in the programme and passes on important life skills to the learners. He has touched and changed many lives in his years with us."

To Dilikeyo's sons, five handicap Lusanda and Lisolethu, a 14 handicapper, their father is their hero.

"Dad taught us everything we know about golf, but he also puts a lot of emphasis on course management and etiquette," says Lusanda. "He always tells us to think on the course, not to just hit the ball and go."

In the not so far future Dilikeyo will face his next challenge.

"Akanani is just two years old, but she is already showing signs of following in her brothers' footsteps," he says. "We have a hard time already to convince her to stay at home when we leave for practice. It won't be long before she will insist on her own pair of clubs."