BMW SA Open development vision

BMW SA Open 2018 winner and Englishman Chris Paisley posing with his trophy. All images JACOB MAWELA.

Patriarchy-versus-feminism cross swords era cliché aside, the world’s second oldest golf championship, the SA Open, playing out its 107th edition, literally embodied that as Englishman Chris Paisley’s American wife, Keri, in an unfamiliar role as a stand-in caddie – carried his bag all the way to his claiming his very first professional title on the Glendower course by carding a flawless final-round 6-under-par 66, for a 3-stroke victory over South African, Branden Grace.

“She never put a foot wrong.  It’s the first time she has ever caddied and I just can’t thank her enough.  I just can’t say enough about how good of a job she has done this week and just in life in general,” observed the gracious 31 year old.

Paisley then offered that she probably was going to get 100 percent of the R2.4 million cheque.

“You see guys walking up the fairways on 18 every week with the win in the bag, and I was never quite sure I’d get to do it”, mused the UK player as he reveled in the moment.

The national open also produced a mixed-bag of ingredients, such as in the form of the development of young and adult players of colour drawn from the amateur to the professional ranks.

One of those, namely, the Legacy Programme of the BMW South African Open, proudly hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni –  reached another major milestone at Glendower Golf Club last weekend of the open championship when 10 young golfers who have made it through a lengthy qualifying process, began their coaching under former SA Open champion, Gavan Levenson.

When the City of Ekurhuleni agreed to host the second oldest national Open in golf, it was with the undertaking that a true Legacy Programme would be developed to ensure the benefits of the championship would impact on the community for many years to come.

As part of this programme – the City of Ekurhuleni iNgomso Golf Development Programme – Glendower Golf Club committed to give 10 young development golfers membership of the club as well as of the Gavan Levenson Golf Academy at the club. Membership will ensure that they will be able to compete in official junior tournaments, with all costs sponsored by the club.

The ultimate aim is that these young golfers could develop their games to the point of turning professional one day.

To identify these 10 golfers, 75 children between the ages of 8 and 10 were selected for a golf development clinic. Their respective coaches underwent the PGA of South Africa’s Level 1 Grow Golf Programme to ensure they had the necessary skills to coach these young golfers.

The golfers then participated in a clinic at Benoni Country Club in June 2017, and which was arranged by the City of Ekurhuleni Sports Department.

Wife and husband combination. Paisley’s better-half and American born Keri, was a stand-in-caddy for husband and pocketed a cool R2,4m.

The gate takings from the 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017 BMW SA Opens, proudly hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni, were then used to support the coaching clinic through the provision of SNAG golf equipment, which helps to teach golf in a fun and engaging manner.

After this clinic, 30 children were selected to attend a trial clinic with Gavan Levenson at Glendower Golf Club. And from this group the 10 golfers were selected.

The City of Ekurhuleni iNgomso Golf Development Programme will also be sponsoring a caddie at the golf club to attend the PGA of South Africa’s Level 1 coaching course, and who will then assist Levenson with the coaching programme and accompany the golfers to tournaments.

A vision that began with the gate takings of the 2011 and 2012 championships being used to purchase golf equipment and fund golf lessons for young golfers from Daveyton and Tembisa has now culminated in a programme that could change the lives of 10 young Ekurhuleni golfers.

Switching away from the upcoming young prospects to an adult group knocking on the door of the select elite who’ve already amassed majors and other titles – an affirmative moment played out in the form of the South African duo of Musiwalo Nethunzwi and Toto Thimba.

Both members of the Gary Player Class of 2017-18 [a Sunshine Tour development squad for historically disadvantaged professional golfers which also serves as a development initiative which benefits from the SA Golf Development Board and the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation], the former, a Sunshine Big EasyTour winner at Glendower in 2017, and despite participating in his maiden home Open, made the cut and went on to finish tied 51st on 3-under-par with a final round of 70 – whilst the latter finished tied 67th on 1-over with a closing 74.

Thimba for one, expressed his dream of winning the world’s second oldest championship – one day!

The SAGDB’s long-standing investment in the future of players of colour appear to be on track as a peer of the duo, Keenan Davidse, finished tied 43rd on 5-under after a 68, on the Glendower course.

A fellow Gary Player Class member, Davidse garnered four top ten finishes on the Sunshine Tour in the course of 2017 and in fact, recently drew attention to his presence in the mix when he led the first round of the Joburg Open at Randpark in December.

Nethunzwi sportingly acknowledged Davidse’s current form as being a motivation to his contemporaries.

Back to the course on the Sunday finale and with a partisan crowd which numbered Olympic long-jumper, Khotso Mokoena in its ranks, it wasn’t to be for Nedbank Challenge victor, Branden Grace, the last man standing of a strong home field which included Major winners, Ernie Els [the event’s player-host], Trevor Immelman, Charl Schwartzel, Retief Goosen – as well as European Tour winners, Brandon Stone [a winner of the championship in 2016], Dylan Frittelli, Haydn Porteous, Dean Burmester and George Coetzee.

Having declared winning the SA Open as one of his childhood dreams, Grace was pipped to the post by a mere three strokes by Paisley.

Amateurs also got to busk in the Ekurhuleni sun as 20-year-old Ekurhuleni native Kyle McClatchie lifted the crown jewel of amateur golf, the Freddie Tait Cup.

Offered to the leading amateur in the BMW SA Open, the trophy was named after the Scotsman who was also a soldier who fought in the Boer War, and has been won by an illustrious list that include Ernie Els, Trevor Immelman, Jean Hugo, Hennie Otto, Branden Grace, Dylan Frittelli, Charl Schwartzel, Brandon Stone [the most recent winner in 2011] as well as Bobby Locke – of an elite list of yesteryear players.

Over the four rounds of the national championship, the GolfRSA National Squad player [playing out of Serengeti Golf Club] carded controlled rounds of 68, 71, 68 and 71 to close out a top 15 finish on a 10-under-par 278 total.

Opined McClatchie: “For us amateurs, the SA Open, SA Stroke Play and SA Sanlam Amateur titles are the Holy Grail of golf and every amateur dreams of winning it.”

Selfie time. Olympic long-jumper, Khotso Mokoena had time for a selfie with a fan.

The young lad went on to express how fantastic a realization it was that he could capture the prized trophy before he left the amateur ranks.

In time to come, hopefully with the other crucial ingredients of patience, perseverance, dedication, discipline and all-encompassing hard and harder work – it will only be a matter of the self-same time when a player or five of colour will emerge to join the echelon occupied by the likes of “The Big Easy”!

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