Unsung Margate Country Club heroes unearthing next Tiger Woods in development initiative

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By Quintin van Jaarsveld

A dedicated group of role players at Margate Country Club have humbly and quietly gone about grooming future golf stars through their junior development drive.

For the past several years, the club have introduced children from South Coast townships to the sport of golf and have taught them the basics in the hopes of guiding them to one day having top-class careers.

The efforts of resident professional Jan Nel, Gary Smith, Daniel Mohlakoana, Patrick Mavundla, club president Ivan Curlewis, club manager Dereck Hirson and other staff members have largely gone undocumented – until now.

It’s somewhat of a Cinderella story.

An authentic development initiative established with the sole benefit of the juniors in mind. No ulterior motives, no personal gain, just a genuine group of men committed to giving back, affording children that would otherwise not have had the resources an opportunity to learn the game of golf and the life skills that come along with it free of charge.

It’s also an initiative, which enjoys the support of the KwaZulu-Natal Golf Union, that keeps these children out of harm’s way and gives them something to look forward to every weekend.

Nel and Smith were the forerunners and initially headed the coaching until late 2007, when club member Mohlakoana, noticing the need for added assistance, volunteered to help.

Mohlakoana played an integral role in the growth of the project before work commitments forced him to take a back seat towards the end of 2008.

Mohlakoana passed away in 2011 where after club member Mavundla took over and remains part of the programme.

Club manager Hirson told eHowz!t: “It feels great to be able to give back to the community. They are the future and hopefully we can assist to develop their careers further.”

He explained that, “Margate Country Club supported the concept because of the need to bring youth into the game in a holiday town where there is a continual exodus of young men and women to the bigger cities.”

Hirson admits it’s not always easy but said it’s a privilege to be part of such a special programme.

“Being asked to identify those with potential or the future stars of tomorrow is not a very easy task, but there are some who show an aptitude that certainly indicates future potential.”

The weekly sessions have become the favourite pastime of some 15 youngsters, who eagerly assemble at either the Hillbillion Driving Range – where they are taught to use the driver and other irons – or Margate Country Club – where they learn the finer aspects of golf on the practice putting green and chipping and bunker areas – for coaching lessons every Saturday.

“The kids thoroughly enjoy the coaching and are keen to come back each week. Patrick agrees that generally they take to it very readily and unlike adults, have few inhibitions or hang ups,” said Hirson.

He added it’s heartening to witness the continuous improvement and development of the youngsters.

“The enthusiasm shown by the juniors is quite overwhelming and this is evident in the progress that they make with a game that most them only know from TV.

“Each and every child has shown improvement and progress over time and hopefully each will develop into a club or recreational player or maybe even our own Tiger Woods.”

Any children are welcome to join the programme and are urged to contact Hirson on 039 312 0571.

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