Learning from the best

Players from the SA Golf Development Board's programme in Port Elizabeth benefited from two excellent initiatives at the recent SAA Open held at Humewood Golf Club. Thanks to support from the Sunshine Tour and SAA, who also sponsor the SAGDB, the players had the chance to learn first-hand how professionals approach the game.

European Ryder Cup player Lee Westwood provided the first encounter when he took time out from his preparations to conduct a clinic for 20 SAGDB players. Westwood was the second top English professional to conduct a development clinic ahead of South Africa's premier tournament after Justin Rose did the same at Fancourt last year.

The clinic was an opportunity for the SAGDB youngsters to meet a leading professional and learn from the experience Westwood has gained during his impressive career.

SAGDB manager for Eastern Province, John Bailey, said that Westwood interacted well with the kids and demonstrated a number of different techniques to show how important it is to be able to play different kinds of shots on the golf course.

Lee Westwood (centre) with SAGDB players and coaches.

"The most important thing for the kids was them seeing first hand what a pro does and how he goes about doing it," Bailey said. "It was great, and they enjoyed it."

"They also asked a lot of questions," Bailey added, "and Lee spoke about things like education as well, so the kids can understand what it entails to become a pro one day. Lee spoke about the commitment and dedication, but most importantly going out and enjoying the game."

The second opportunity for SAGDB youngsters to gain invaluable experience was granted by Humewood GC itself, when eight learners were invited to act as caddies for the pro-am tournament held the day before tournament. The players were drawn from underprivileged communities around Port Elizabeth.

Hugo Maritz, general manager of this year's SAA Open hosts, Humewood GC, extended the invitation to the players on behalf of the club.

"It was a wonderful chance for them to be involved in South Africa's premier golf event," said SAGDB media liaison Patrick Cairns. "As the SAGDB we're always looking to offer learning opportunities for our players, and we’re very grateful to Humewood for taking the initiative in this way."

SAGDB development manager for Eastern Province, John Bailey, said that all the players were keen and excited about caddying in a fourball in which a professional was playing.

"It was a wonderful opportunity for our players to witness a top pro playing a full round of golf - four to five hours of watching every shot executed," Bailey said. "We will be encouraging them to closely follow the professionals' actions and hopefully they've learnt a lot from the experience."