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​Top golfers impart skills to Alex youths

Ten of the 210 local and international professional golfers participating in this week’s Joburg Open – including Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke and South Africa’s Sipho Jejula – on Wednesday took time off their hectic training schedules to impart their skills and knowledge of the sport to scores of eager youngsters from Alexandra.

The coaching clinic, held at the Lombardy East Golf Driving Range on the outskirts of the township, attracted more than 200 young boys and girls from local schools and youth clubs. They all wanted to try their hand at the noble sport.

A development legacy project of the Joburg Open, the coaching clinic created considerable interest and excitement among the youths, especially at the knowledge that they would be interacting and rubbing shoulders with some of the leading names in local and international golfing sphere.

One of the learners who attended the clinic was 16-year-old Lucky Mbembe, who said golf was in his blood.

“Golf has always been my first love. I’m determined to work hard at my game, go to a golf academy and turn professional,” said Lucky.

The only child of a single parent, Lucky said he had already discussed his future plans with his mother.

At first his mother was sceptical as the sport did not seem to enjoy the same popularity as soccer and boxing in the township.

“And because of this, my mother was initially not pleased. But she has since changed her mind. She supports me all the way,” said Lucky.

The programme is run under the auspices of the South African Golf Association, a local golf development body that works in partnership with the City of Johannesburg and the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club to nurture the talents of local youths. The City, which has announced the extension of the sponsorship by another three years – until 2018 – has committed itself to continuing to support the development of the sport and provision of the necessary facilities.

One of the immediate things to be looked at is the building of a guard house at the driving range to improve security. The facility had been vandalised before.

The Joburg Open tees off today at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club. Local professional golfer George Coetzee will attempt to emulate the achievements of his countrymen – Charl Schwartzel and Richard Sterne – who both won the tournament twice.

This year’s total purse is €1.3 million (approximately R15 million).