SAGDB's Diepkloof Prison Project exceeding all expectations
SAGDB coach Michael Khumalo with some of the learners at Diepkloof Prison
When Andy Ostle first approached the authorities at Diepkloof Prison near Soweto in September last year, he didn't hold out much hope about convincing them that the disused driving range inside the prison's premises would make a perfect practice ground for the SAGDB's growing programme in Central Gauteng.
But, much to his surprise, permission was granted almost at the first meeting and the SAGDB's Central Gauteng regional manager set to task to get the property ready.
"The driving range was originally built for the wardens and prison staff who work and live on the premises," explained Ostle. "It was really just a large piece of grass-covered land but the length allowed drives of up to 300 meters, which made it perfect for our programme."
"The Central Gauteng Golf Union thought it might work very well for the SAGDB and to my surprise, the head warden at Diepkloof was not only very receptive to the idea, but gave us permission, offered to help us get the project off the ground and provided the manpower to get the driving range ready."
"Central Gauteng Golf Union then set up an irrigation system on the range and supplied balls and second hand clubs."
Ostle explained that once the grass was ready, he received a R14,000 donation with which he purchased a precast hut to double up as office and storage for the equipment.
"Then we were ready to launch, so I approached the nearby Meredale Primary School with our programme," he said. "Again, the project was met with huge enthusiasm and we immediately had some children enrol."
Ostle tried a couple of coaches, but it wasn't until he installed former SAGDB graduate Michael Khumalo as the coach that the project really took off.
"Michael has been there three months this May and already he is almost at capacity," said Ostle. "He has between 40 and 50 children between the ages of 10 to 12 that attend the four weekly sessions, which run between 14h00 and 17h00 from Tuesday to Friday."
"We were also approached by the prison staff, who live on the premises, and their children have also started joining the SAGDB programme. Very soon, we will have to appoint a few more coaches to accommodate the growing numbers."
Khumalo, who joined the SAGDB programme at Huddle Park in 2002, said he fell in love with the game while being taught by Obed Shivangu.
"I got the chance to learn to play golf through the SAGDB and I just love it," said the 26-year-old from Alexandria. "Nothing gives me greater joy than watching these kids at practice. Without the SAGDB programme here at Diepkloof they never would have had the opportunity to learn."
"There are so many talented children in the programme and their enthusiasm is fantastic. They are very committed to the practice sessions and I already have nine children ready to take on the course at Soweto Country Club for the first time this month."
Ostle said that with Soweto Country Club, Southdowns Golf Club and Crown Mines Golf Club all within easy reach of the driving range, they aim to get more children onto the golf course in the coming months. But securing sponsorship to add a putting green and bunker at the facility has now become a big priority.
"I think it is crucial to upgrade the facility with a bunker and putting green," he said. "The interest is huge and we continue to grow. We can start the beginners off with the basics of the swing, but then one has to follow on with bunker and putting practice before you can really take the kids to the golf course."
"The additions will open up more facets of the game and the chance to further instruct them to produce more future stars here in Central Gauteng."