By Quintin van Jaarsveld
Port Shepstone Country Club took a takes trip down memory lane as it celebrated and reflected on its legacy at the club’s centenary dinner on Saturday.
A jovial atmosphere reigned as over 100 members reminisced over the 100-year history of the club, which has seen it stand the test of time and overcome several challenges largely due to its loyal and dedicated members.
What started as a humble nine-hole golf course has blossomed into a picturesque 18-hole golf gem, which also boasts top-class bowls, squash and cricket facilities, making it one of the South Coast’s most popular tourist attractions.
Hibiscus Coast Mayor Cynthia Mqwebu was the guest of honour at the centenary dinner, where the renowned camaraderie among members made for a fitting celebration.
“The evening was a great trip down memory lane,” club chairman Leon Reeders told eHowzit.
“All the members had a wonderful time sharing their memories and we were grateful to have the mayor as our guest of honour.”
Few expected the club would one day celebrate such a major milestone after devastating floods decimated the clubhouse and course in 1959.
It took an extra-ordinary effort from members, neighbouring clubs and local farmers to rebuild the club and it’s this community cohesiveness upon which it was built and what continues to drive the club in difficult economic times.
“It’s an honour to be chairman of the club as we reach this milestone,” remarked Reeders.
“I have a brilliant team behind me who’ve made things very easy for me and I thank them for everything they do.
“The floods and moving from a nine to an 18-hole course are two of the most significant events in the club’s history, but there are countless special moments being made each week.
“We have one of the most beautiful courses in KwaZulu-Natal and we’re a very welcoming club. Every time we host a big event, like last month’s KwaZulu-Natal Open Strokeplay Championships, we’re widely praised for our hospitality.
“Aside from our beautiful course, we have stunning bowls, squash and cricket facilities that’ve seen members and teams excel in their respective fields and we have delicious food and refreshments and quality entertainment week in and week out.”
Gerald Koch, a member of the club for 61 years, is ‘part of the furniture’ and watched the club transform into what it is today.
“I have incredibly fond memories of the club through the years,” Koch told eHowzit.
“Initially, it was one of the top tennis clubs in the country.
“I enjoyed my tennis and transitioned to golf pretty much with the club.
“As a young man I didn’t have a car so I would drive to the river with my bike where a man would take me across the river to the 10th with a boat.”
He also assisted with the restoration of the clubhouse after the ’59 floods.
“The club was in a very bad way after the floods, but the members really rallied together.
“I would go to the club on weekends with my hammer and help where I could and that’s how it was eventually restored.
“The club has certainly come a long way since then…it’s quite remarkable.”
Koch, a five-time club champion, said his life would’ve been a lesser one had he not been a member of the club.
“The club has given me so much,” he said.
“I travelled to places I would never have been to if it weren’t for playing tennis and golf and I’ve met some good people and made some great friends through the club.”
Another legendary club member, Colleen Eaton, said the club is like a second home for her and her twin daughters Nicola and Melissa.
“The club is dear to us as a family – we’ve shared some wonderful moments there,” she told eHowzit.
The Eaton trio are among the most talented golfers in the club’s rich history.
Since joining the club in 1989, Colleen has won a record number of ladies club titles (over 15).
Nicola was the club’s resident pro for several years and has played in a number of international competitions, while Melissa continues to put the club on the international map as a Ladies European Tour veteran.
“I’m proud to be a member of Sheppie and I know the girls are proud as well,” said Colleen.
“They spent a lot of time at the club growing up, sitting around while I worked in the pro shop before they eventually started playing golf.
“They learned how to play on the course and it certainly shaped their careers.”
Colleen added her entire time at the club has been memorable.
“There’s really no one particular moment that stands out for me.
“Winning the club champs and the league were special, but it’s the camaraderie that’s been the highlight.”
Club history (via www.pscc.co.za):
The first 9 hole golf course in Port Shepstone was laid out in 1912, situated between the present site of the Dutch Reformed Church and Port Shepstone High School with the southern boundary being the Umbango River. The greens were sand in those days. Also in 1912, on the present site of the PSCC golf course, a corrugated iron pavilion was built to house tables, chairs and tools for use for the Gymkanas and Athletics school sport which were held there.
Then in 1918 the Lower Umzimkulu Lawn Tennis Club was moved from Batstons Drift to this site and the pavilion was used for storing tennis equipment. During 1928 the president of the Tennis Club, Mr Neil McKenzie and the committee decided to engage Syd Brews to design a 9 hole golf course and the present site. Mr McKenzie with the help of the club members, local farmers and farm labourers, ploughed, harrowed and leveled the golf course and duly planted the grass for the fairways and greens. Whilst digging a fossilized elephant’s tooth was found \which is still presently housed at the local museum.
Mr Young was engaged to build the first Club House – the design being based on a similar structure that Mrs McKenzie had seen in Ladysmith. Mr Neil McKenzie, the first President and Founder of the Club passed away in March 1938. The McKenzie Trophy Competition, in memory of him, still takes place at PSCC every year.
There are many memories of events that took place during the second World War and on in particular was the aircraft that crashed on the beach doing a coastal patrol. Mr Fergus McIver had the fuselage of this plane taken to the Club House which was used as a workshop to repair the plane. Small aircraft used to land on the golf course bringing new parts for the plane. Interesting trivia is that the pilot of the crashed plane, a Mr Kemp was admitted to the local hospital and later married a local nurse, Violet Ferguson. In 1948, Mr N Bamber the then President, called a special general meeting to embody all sports, golf, tennis, rugby, cricket, bowls and hockey and the name Lower Umzimkulu Lawn Tennis Club was changed to Port Shepstone Country Club.
Floods of 1959:
In May 1959 the South Coast experienced devastation floods and the Port Shepstone Country Club was practically washed away. Member’s records were lost together with the piano from the hall which was eventually discovered on the beach at Sea park- perhaps it was looking for it’s “lost chord”. Members all rallied around and gave up their free time over the weekends to work to re-establish the Club. Mrs McKenzie took all the curtains, that were not damaged, home to be washed and members have memories of these all drying down her driveway! Mr Joe Morton, his daughter, Mrs Jackie Baker and many members organized a huge fair, which many still remember, to raise funds – an amount of 2000 pounds was collected. The club has always been grateful for the help of many clubs on the South Coast and those much further afield who raised funds so generously to re-establish the Club. Still to this day, a two day competition is held in May in commemoration. The Cup being the Restoration Cup.
Today, Port Shepstone’s golf course is one of the most popular along the South Coast and is well supported by local and overseas visitors alike. The course has recently undergone major changes – new greens on the 9 th and 18 th , water added to the 11th and the 15th where an island has been developed to promote the bird population. The 11th fairway was raised by a meter to combat the water that used to seep through when we had high seas. More and more indigenous trees are also being introduced and the majority of the ladies Tee boxes have been enlarged. For the ladies the course rating is 70 and includes 4 par 5’s and 4 short holes.