Golf may not be the most popular sport in South Africa, but it is growing. Young Mthokozisi Siphayi has set his sights on making it big on the greens.
ELEVEN-YEAR-OLD Mthokozisi Siphayi strides confidently across the lush green course at Glenvista Country Club, lugging several golf clubs in a rather cute Garfield head cover.
Mthokozisi Siphayi wants to be professional golferMthokozisi Siphayi wants to be professional golferMthokozisi is not caddy to his father, nor is he going around looking for lost golf balls – he is practising for his next golf tournament. Dressed resplendently in white with a blue cap placed jauntily on his head, Mthokozisi positions himself like a true professional, brings his club back slowly, and follows through the ball tracking it into the bottom of the cup.
“My shot will get affected if anything goes wrong with my swing,” he says. “That is why it is important for me to practise every day.”
The young lad, who only recently turned 11, sounds every bit the seasoned golfer who has seen it all. He knows the ins and outs of the game, and is quick to point out its merits. “You can make a lot of money from just playing golf and get to travel to many places.”
A pupil at Glenanda Primary School, his golfing talent is no big surprise, as he grew up in a family that plays the sport. He speaks passionately of his grandfather, Kenneth, and his uncle, Siphiwe, both of whom are ardent golfers. He says he hopes to follow in their footsteps.
Kenneth, who retired from professional golf a few years after injuring his back, was in the Ernie Els Foundation Team that was hosted by Tiger Woods in Chicago, in the US in 2004. He now spends most of his time passing on his knowledge of the sport to his grandson.
Siphiwe is one of the city’s top amateur golfers and was part of the South African Junior Golf Foundation Team that competed at the junior tournament in Japan.
Mthokozisi’s interest in golf started when he was just three years old. “I was only a toddler when my grandfather brought me my first set of plastic clubs to play with. As I grew older I became better,” he says. Eventually, he became good enough to participate in tournaments.
Mthokozisi comes from a family of golfersMthokozisi gets huge support from his family“This game is not like soccer whereby you rush around and pass the ball. You can take as much time as you please,” he explains, his thoughts drifting occasionally to the game he is going to be playing over the weekend.
“I am confident that I am going to win. I practised hard for the tournament and I know that I am ready,” he says, without an ounce of doubt in his voice.
Mthokozisi is just one of a growing number of youngsters in Joburg taking interest in the sport, usually regarded as a domain for the rich. Scores of youngsters in black residential areas such as Alexandra are now talking golf swings and putting instead of soccer, which is the most popular sport in townships.
The Joburg Open, an annual golf tournament organised by the City of Johannesburg, has been introducing youngsters to the sport for the past five years through its Joburg Open Golf Development Clinic. The clinics are held just before the tournament at the Alex Driving Range.
Kenneth describes his grandson as a hardworking individual. “I want him to play more junior tournaments and participate in the inter-provincial tournaments,” he adds.
The young golfer, who has participated in many games throughout South Africa, recently won the Glenvista Junior championships, the Sanlam Glacier Junior Golf Series and the Central Gauteng Golf Union Tournament.
He regards Rory McIlroy as his hero: “He is the youngest golf player in the world and I want to be just like him!”
Clinic develops young talent
A course fit for royalty
Teaching Jozi’s young golfers
Alex’s driving range tees off