April 2013

Evance clear about his goals

Former SAGDB golfer Evans Vukeya (left) with Gary Player School of Champions Master Coach, Stephan Spies (credit Gary Player School of Champions)

It was pretty tough losing his best friends to the pro circuit this year, but Evans Vukeya knows it will just be a matter of time before he joins fellow Soweto golfers Musi Nethunzwi and Sipho Bujela in the paid ranks.

And, while his former SAGDB colleagues adjust to life on Tour, the 19-year-old embarked on an exciting journey of his own.

Vukeya, who matriculated from Progress High School in Soweto at the end of 2012, enrolled in a three-year course at the Gary Player School of Champions in January with the financial support of the Central Gauteng Golf Union (GGGU).

For the last three months, he has been putting in some serious work with Gary Player master coaches, Adriaan van Pletzen and Stephan Spies, which has led to a top five, top 10 and two second place finishes in the school's internal stroke play competitions.

"We are working on some swing changes and we are also changing my putting stroke, because my putting is still a weakness in my game," Vukeya explained. "It's been a fantastic experience so far. I feel very much part of the team and it's great to see how the changes have already begun to improve my game. I was a three-handicap at the end of last year and my handicap is already down to one."

The Soweto teenager joined the SAGDB programme at Soweto Country Club at the age of 13.

"My first coach was Zac Mavundla, who really inspired me to work hard at the game," he said. "I suppose I was pretty old when I started playing by some people's standards, but I fell in love with the game on the first day and I knew six years ago that I wanted to play pro golf one day. Everything I've done since has been to prepare me for the paid ranks one day."

Through the support the SAGDB received from CGGU, Vukeya competed in several junior foundation tournaments. At the end of 2009, he joined the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation (EEFF).

"A lot of the SAGDB's top players are offered a spot in the EEFF and I was thrilled when I realised they were considering me," Vukeya explained. "I had to compete in a tournament at Roodepoort Golf Club against some other players, who were also trying to get into the EEFF. It was pretty tough, but in the end I delivered and secured my spot."

"The EEFF was everything I imagined. We travelled a lot and played in tournaments all over South Africa and I gained a lot of experience."

Winning in front of a home crowd and meeting his idol, Ernie Els, ranked among the highlights of his two-year tenure.

"I won the EEFF Junior Open at Soweto Country Club last July and it was great winning in front of my family and friends and showing them just how serious I am about my career," he said. "I admire Ernie for the way he plays, for his dedication to the development of golf and for the way he supports the members of the foundation. He is a fantastic role model."

Vukeya recently added Grand Slam winner Gary Player to his list of idols.

"Gary Player was long before my time but I have come to admire him through my experience at the Gary Player School of Champions. I've learned that it's not only about how well you hit the ball."

"Gary Player has taught me that I also need to know other things to succeed, like the rules of golf, the regulations and the dress code. When I'm not practicing or playing, I read golf books in my free time, I am cramming all the time, trying to learn as much as possible. You can never know enough."

Vukeya said he will always be indebted to the SAGDB and Mavundla, who gave him a shot at something he had never dreamed possible.

"When I joined the SAGDB, it was to learn a new sport, but Zac believed in me. He gave me the tools to get started and he gave me the push that kept me going."

"The SAGDB taught us how to play golf, but they also taught us that honesty and respect are the cornerstone of golf. Even if you are the world's greatest golfer, if you aren't honest and if you don't have respect and show respect, your achievements mean nothing."

"Honesty and respect are the two most important things in my life."