October 2022 – We caught up with SAGDB graduate Cameron Esau, who is currently in his third year of the PGA of South Africa’s PGA Pathway Program and working at the Stellenbosch Golf Club as a Coach and Club fitter for Titleist.
At what age did you start playing golf and how did you get introduced to the game?
My dad, Cedric Esau, was a sportsman and after watching the 1986 Masters, where Jack Nicklaus became the oldest winner of the event, my dad decided he wanted to play.
So, he became a player and I just used to watch him and at the age of four, I could swing a club. I only became serious about golf at age 11, when I started playing Boland Junior events and my game progressed naturally from there until I was able to turn pro at the age of 21.
The PGA Slogan is “touching lives through the game of golf”, how do you intend on doing so as a qualified PGA Professional?
The game of golf has absolutely touched my life and I have always been willing to pay it forward in any way I can. For me paying it forward has been coaching in my community to kids who are not able to get to a golf course. When I say my community, I am referring to Eersterivier, Blue Downs.
While I absolutely love being a coach to the juniors at Stellenbosch Golf Club, I am fully aware that kids from my community could use my help more than the kids at Stellenbosch. I know this because I myself was one of those kids not so long ago. These kids at Blue Downs, much like me, are from “middle to low” income families, which in South Africa are referred to as “previously disadvantaged”. Due to this, they are often exposed to a lot of negative behaviour and social behaviours that influence how they see themselves. I can say this because I grew up in this myself. I was one of the fortunate kids in my community who had a great upbringing with two amazing parents (Magda and Cedric Esau), who sacrificed a lot for my siblings and I to rise above these circumstances.
During my time as a junior at Blue Downs, I was introduced to Japie Koopman, who was a coach for the South African Golf Development Board. He took me under his wing and along with my parents took me to golf courses like Stellenbosch to further develop me as a player but more importantly as a person. Always making me aware that golf is for everyone, which I later realised when I became a part of the development group at the golf course.
Coincidently this was where I met Louis Destroo and Erich Kleim for the first time, who are now my mentors today. Fast forward 15 years and I was playing professional golf on the Sunshine Tour. Even then I stayed close with Japie Koopman, who was continuing with bringing kids from the street to come and try golf, he would call me to help whenever I could., and of course I did and together, we helped the kids.
We always said it was not about becoming professional golfers but more to help these kids understand what the game can do for them because it has done so much for me. Hopefully helping them become people who thrive in the community and become successful in whatever they wish.
Unfortunately, Oom Japie, as we all called him, passed away about a year ago and I have since tried my best to continue what he started with me. So as far as “touching lives through the game of golf”, this is something I have been doing even before I started the PGA program. This is why I’m continuing with the coaching in my community of Blue Downs, Eersterivier whenever I am able to.
After my graduation, I intend to be more involved than I currently am and give these kids the same kind of opportunities I have enjoyed this far. Because believe me, all they need is an opportunity and proper support, nothing else! Hopefully, I can be an Uncle Japie or Louis Destroo or even a Cedric to one of these kids.
What role do you currently hold at Stellenbosch Golf Club?
I am currently a third-year Associate, one that coaches and a club fitter for Titleist. I am the recipient of the Titleist bursary, for which I am so grateful. Once again through the game of golf, I was able to meet Jacques Greyling (PGA Professional and Titleist Golf Ball Manager), with whom I established a relationship at Stellenbosch Golf Club.
From that came the opportunity to apply for the bursary and fortunately I received it. Jacques has since become a mentor to me and I now find myself as one of the club fitters for Titleist at Stellenbosch. I must mention that if it was not for the bursary, I would have found it extremely difficult to complete the three-year program, as it is financially demanding. So, once again the game has provided something to me. Subsequently, I feel not obligated but rather fortunate to pay it forward to others like myself.
Why did you decide to join the PGA Pathway Program?
After playing professionally without much success, I decided to go the PGA route, as it would still keep me involved with the sport that I have come to love so much. Also, golf has been such a great part of my life, it’s all I know really and through golf I have been exposed to many opportunities that have moulded me into the person I am today. I could not see myself walking away from the game just because I had not yet achieved professional playing success.
Who is your current PGA mentor and what is the best advice you have received from him?
As I mentioned, the game has introduced me to a lot of great people, all of whom I consider mentors and people I could look up to and follow. Currently, my PGA mentor is Louis Destroo (Advanced Fellow Professional and Director of Golf at Stellenbosch Golf Club).
When I first approached Louis, I was looking for a place to do my PGA, and he without hesitation made a way for me to join the club under his guidance. As a result, I have learnt many lessons from him about the golf industry, too many to mention here.
The best advice I received from him was to find mentors within the PGA to help me understand all the facets of the industry. My favourite quote of his is “PGA professionals should try to be a Jack of all trades and a master of none”, meaning we should expose ourselves to as many avenues within the PGA so that we are able to at any time assist any customer we may encounter. We are after all in the hospitality business.
I am extremely grateful for him and all the other mentors I have in my life. If I really think about it, I guess you could say the game of golf has been my biggest mentor up to this point in my golfing career.
Throughout your three-year studies, which two subjects did you enjoy most?
Coaching and Business Law. Coaching because I can use my playing experience to understand the feels to produce a certain shot. Business Law, because I am just fascinated by Law. I also plan on further pursuing a degree in this subject after completing my PGA Pathway Program.
Did you create valuable relationships with other Associates and PGA members while in the Pathway Program?
Yes, I absolutely have, but I have had established relationships well before doing the Program. Through all the phases of my golf journey from junior to Professional status to The PGA Pathway programme, I have been fortunate enough to have met some amazing people from all different social classes.
With thanks to the PGA of South Africa and Junior Golfer SA