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Golf Development in Border continues to grow

Border has always run one of the strongest regional programmes within the SA Golf Development Board. Due to the strong pool of local talent, continued support from clubs and golf bodies and committed coaches, the area continues to show good results.

"The coaches here are working very hard to follow the official programme and this is visible in the childrens' progress," says Millie Zim, the SAGDB's development manager for Border. "We are just hoping to get more transport so that the children can practice more and achieve their goals as well as SAGDB goals."

Since most of the youngsters in the development programme live in areas far away from golf facilities, transporting them for coaching and playing opportunities remains a major challenge. Especially in a region as vast as Border, travelling costs can become a burden.

Despite this, the top players from around East London are excelling. In the recent Mitchum Scott Memorial junior tournament, Mandilakhe Nohlaka won the C section playing of 13 handicap and Solly Jonas won the B Section playing of 9 handicap. Jonas was recently given a new set of golf clubs by The Pro Shop, and his handicap has improved from a 15 to a 9 since he began using the new equipment.

"The girls side has also improved this year, thanks to the Border ladies," Zim says. "They pay for all of the top six players at WestBank and Foundation tournaments, and the girls also play all the Border ladies fixtures."

13-year old Zethu Myeki, who has only been playing for six months, has already benefited from these playing opportunities. She has brought her handicap down to 24 and was selected on merit to play for the Border u/16 girls team at the inter-provincial event in Aliwal North in early May.

The region's two brightest prospects, 17-year old Thabo Jim and 14-year old Lusanda Dikileyo, also continue to do well. Jim was recently selected to the Dolphin's u/23 team, while Lusanda was chosen to represent his province at both u/14 and u/16 level in the last two months.

With continued support from the golf bodies and clubs in the region, the SAGDB hopes to build on these successes. Alexander Country Club, West Bank Golf Club, Gonubie Golf Club, East London Golf Club and King Williamstown Golf Club are all already offering free playing and practice opportunities for players in the development programme. Their assistance is making a big difference in supporting the local talent.

The following organisations have shown their support for golf development as the founding members of the SAGDB Patrons Club.

The SAGDB Patrons Club is a growing group of companies committed to the future of golf in South Africa. Thanks to their generous donations, the SAGDB is able to provide more opportunities for the golfers of tomorrow.
Masters winner Trevor Immelman learnt his golf on the fairways of the Western Cape. Youngsters from the SA Golf Development Board's programme in Western Province are now being given the opportunity to improve their games on those same courses on which Immelman played as a youngster.

Children from Strand, Somerset West, Gugulethu, Mitchell's Plain, Khayelitsha and Belville South are enjoying the opportunity to receive regular coaching and playing opportunities through SAGDB initiatives. With the support of local clubs, the development board is developing these players through its PGA-approved, structured coaching programme.

The development coaches in the region are also being supported by the PGA through its nation-wide mentoring initiative. This programme involves top PGA professionals meeting regularly with the coaches to offer guidance and share their knowledge.

"The coaches are very positive," says the SAGDB's development manager for WP, Michael Bredenkamp. “We have a lot of young kids coming through and the sessions with the PGA mentors are boosting them as well."

Another initiative in the region has involved getting some the best young golfers in the WP junior foundation to come to SAGDB coaching sessions. They have not only helped the coaches, but they have also motivated the SAGDB players through playing with them and helping with their course management.

"It is wonderful to see the synergy between the two groups," Bredenkamp says. They all come from different backgrounds but are united in their passion for golf."

Progress in the region has been good in the last year, and six players in the SAGDB's WP programme currently play off handicaps of 8 or lower. Devon Thomas from Somerset West was recently selected to the provincial u/14 team, and two SAGDB youngsters are practicing with the WP u/12 team.

Bredenkamp says that these players and their peers in the region are benefiting from support provided by local clubs, particularly King David Golf Club and Somerset West Golf Club. Both clubs host SAGDB practice sessions four days a week and offer playing opportunities at a nominal fee.

With this ongoing support from clubs and golfing bodies, the development programme is running relatively smoothly. However, there is still a desperate need for additional funding to cover the costs of transporting players to coaching and playing facilities.

"In Somerset West the Lions Club hosts an annual golf day for the SAGDB, and that money is used to fund transport costs for the players in that area," says Bredenkamp. "We need organisations like these to come to the party and assist us, especially to allow our promising players to attend tournaments where they can gain experience."