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Theo Manyama Golf Foundation & Academy launch

THE eve of South Africa’s commemoration of the milestone of a democratic dispensation also marked a notable sporting milestone when the Theo Manyama Golf Foundation & Academy intended to provide access to professional golf training and development opportunities was launched at the 100-year-old Bobby Locke-designed Observatory Golf Club.

The brainchild of Tzaneen-born erstwhile golfer and now rules official, viz, Theo Manyama, the non-profit organization intends to identify and nurture young talent – especially Black youth – making the sport accessible to them irrespective of their financial circumstances.

The Academy aims to equip these with all-round training and skills, inter alia, coaching, knowledge of golf rules, guidance in caddy and player management, et cetera.

Specifically, these will entail: comprehensive instruction in the rules of golf; expert guidance on marking hazards and setting up golf courses; insightful techniques for managing the pace of play; strategic approaches for interacting with players for rulings; skilled assistance with writing local rules for golf courses and thoughtful strategies for player pairings and tournament qualifications.

Through these services the TMGFA aims to empower golf enthusiasts with tools and knowledge requisite in progressing in the sport.

The modus operandi of the Academy will entail an approach whereby sponsors will partner towards the overseeing of the training of intakes of aspiring golfers gratis, with those opting to enrol individually funding their own development at affordable rates.

In TMGFA’s partnership with Observatory Golf Club – Manyama moots providing an immersive golf experience for trainees.

To the realization of this grandiose objective, the launch commenced with a fundraising golf day entailing a shot-gun start in the early morning of Friday, April 26, 2024 attended by nine multiracial four-ball teams who traversed the scenic course’s 18-hole layout on carts from then until late in the afternoon – by which time it had begun drizzling – just ahead of a prize-giving dinner in the clubhouse’s lounge.

Once settled in over drinks, Manyama regaled the teams – who include Joburg City Auto (the only 100% Black-owned BMW dealership in South Africa) owner Stephen Nale and erstwhile South Africa’s Ambassador to Brazil, Mbulelo Rakwena – with anecdotes punctuated by a sense of humour which reduced them in raucous laughter!

As the event’s host, he serenaded the participants inter alia, regarding his playing days with Papwa Sewgolum and averred: “bragging is never my line – I don’t even know how to brag, but I’m the only one who achieved what I have achieved!” “I wanna give back to everyone interested in taking the path I have taken,” he concluded in explaining the motivation behind his initiative. “You’re an inspiration to all of us,” gushed a participant and ex-OGC chairman, Donavan Ridley who was directing the evening’s programme, as guests rose to a standing ovation just before the prize-awarding segment of the occasion.

About Theo Manyama

81-year-old Theo Manyama escaped impoverishment in his hometown of Tzaneen where his family tilled the soil of a White farmer to settling in the urban setting of Alexandra in pursuit of a brighter future, albeit within the entrapment of apartheid.

Taking a liking for golf, he soon faced a conundrum in which to choose between it and education – ending up opting, with his parents’ approval, for the former.

Image (Golfers at the Theo Manyama Golf Foundation & Academy launch).

Evolving from a caddy to a determined participant in tournaments, his crossing paths with a professional golfer named Eric Moore and a golf coach named Phil Ritsan proved a turning point in his development. Recalled Manyama regarding his initial encounter with the latter: “And this is where Paul Ritsan saw me. He said I’ve got talent … He said I am from the jungle. He wants to get me out of the jungle into civilization and play better golf.”

Their partnership was to bear fruit when Manyama triumphed in three consecutive tournaments – including a second-place finish, by two strokes, behind the Indian player, Papwa Sewgolum in another competition.

An influence on Manyama’s aspirational trajectory, he remarked of him: “I found that I was one of the first black players, but the best black player was an Indian player, Papwa Sewgolum from Durban. That man could play golf. We shared the same story. He never went to school… He really wanted to enter the white tournaments because at the point of meeting him in 1983, black, Indian and coloured people had their own tournaments and were not allowed to enter white tournaments.”

In a sport then grappling with racial segregation, he ultimately found himself transitioning from a player to an official aged 47 when the then Black association, TPA, needed a tournament director and he decided to become involved in the governing of the game – a move also motivated by his taxi business not faring well then. Thenceforth, he never stared back – going on to chalking unsurpassable international feats as an official which included becoming the only South African to officiate at all of the sport’s Grand Slams.

Others include:

A 19-year tenure at the US Masters, overseeing the game’s greatest players

• Twenty years at the British Open, a testament to his enduring expertise

• Nine significant years at the US Open, shaping the contours of the sport

• A pivotal year at the US PGA, contributing to its grandeur

• Twelve years at the Players Championship in Jacksonville, upholding the spirit of the game

• Eleven years at Fire Stone, a period of significant growth and influence

• A defining role at the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil, showcasing his global impact

• A quarter-century at the President’s Cup, a journey of unparalleled dedication

• Witnessing Ernie Els and Retief Goosen’s historic victory at the World Cup in Japan, a moment of pride and affirmation

In his journey – and he is a globetrotter of note – a standout memory involves a rendezvous with the game’s titan, Tiger Woods, about which he reminisces: “I have a photo of a black-tie event I was invited to at the US White House. Me, the great Tiger Woods and my wife in The US White House. I never thought I’d see the White House, let alone be inside it.”

All images Jacob MAWELA (Legendary Theo Manyama, addressing guests at the launch of his Golf Foundation & Academy, held at the 100-year-old Bobby Locke-designed Observatory Golf Club).

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