July 2012

SAGDB learners shine at Glacier Junior Series tournament

Thobani Bilitane with Sondie Qamata, executive director Alexandria Golf Club, at the Glacier Junior Series Tournament hosted by Africa Open chairman Khaya Ngqula (credit Glacier Junior Series)

Up-and-coming junior golfers from the SAGDB's programme in the Border region were recently given the chance to showcase their budding talent on the Glacier Junior Series. They teed it up in the 19th tournament of the series, hosted in East London by Africa Open chairman Khaya Ngqula.

While pouring rain and wind competed for supremacy at the par-72 layout at East London Golf Club and the field even had to wait out a lightning delay, the youngsters could not be deterred from taking to the fairways.

Sixteen-year-old Cambridge golfer Roy Gobey relied on his local knowledge of his home course and a lot of patience to beat last year's winner, Jade Buitdendag, and win the A-Division, securing his spot in the line-up of the series national final in October, while two SAGDB learners from Duncan Village also excelled to claim prizes in the B- and C-Divisions.

14-year-old Chuma Adonis collected Cleveland Wedges for winning the B-Division for 7-18 handicaps, while 11-year-old Thobani Bilitani won a Cleveland Black Putter for finishing second in the C-Division for 19-36 handicaps.

SAGDB regional manager Millie Zim said the series is very important for budding golfers.

"Our programme in the Border is very strong," said Zim. "Coaching is very important, but children need competitive experience to improve. We were able to enter 12 children from varying ages and handicaps and they could all share in the same experience. It was just so wonderful to listen to the learners enthuse about the event. They didn't care that it rained all day; it was just fantastic for them to compete."

"The Glacier Junior Series tournaments are always very well run and the learners said they felt like professionals when they received gifts on registration. The lunch, prize giving and the prizes was also a big hit."

Zim added that a R150,000 donation from The Richer Future Foundation in January has enabled the SAGDB to expand the programme at Alexandria Golf Club in Greenfields and she hopes to enter a large contingent from this area in next year's event.

"As one of the founders of the foundation, Mr Ngqula has been very supportive of our programme," she said. "He recognised the need for competition and signed on as a host of the series and we are eternally grateful to him for giving the children this opportunity."

Ngqula, who turned his attention to golf after the tragic drowning of his young daughter, is also the founder of the Africa Open, a European and Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned international tournament, which now enjoys a full-time home in Buffalo City. The success of the tournament prompted him to launch The Richer Future Foundation and donate the funds, some of which were donated by Major winners Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Darren Clarke, to the SAGDB.

Ngqula said that hosting the event is equal to investing in South Africa's golfing future.

"The Glacier Junior Series is about providing juniors from all communities, including the underprivileged and previously disadvantaged, to develop their game, gain competitive experience, learn how to cope with tournament pressure and to have fun playing a sport we love," he said. "I'm very proud to be involved with this initiative from Glacier by Sanlam and to have a small hand in nurturing our future champions."

"With three divisions, the Glacier Junior Series tournaments allow children with higher handicaps to also gain competitive experience. That alone is a wonderful gift on its own and I was thrilled to see the SAGDB learners coming through the ranks and take their place on the podium."