Hlophe’s golfing dreams sink in the bunker

2010-03-28 10:53

A COMBINATION of illness and injury has halted the career of

long-standing Sunshine Tour professional Bafana Hlophe, who at this point is

uncertain when he will pick up a golf club again.

The Soweto professional has not featured on the Sunshine Tour since

May 2009. His last tournament was the SAA Pro-Am Invitational at Prince’s Grant

on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast, where he missed the cut with rounds of 75 and

76.

Hlophe has admitted that poor health and then a knee injury had

laid him low.

“I was constantly feeling tired and ill, and I had no energy at

all,” said Hlophe.

“I went to see a few doctors and they diagnosed it as a type of

flu. Then I went to the gym to train and I fell down because I was dizzy. That’s

when I hurt my knee.

“It remained sore, and in November I went to Baragwanath Hospital

in Soweto and they said I had very weak muscles around my left knee, which

caused me to lose balance.”

Hlophe said he spent a month in the hospital, with his knee heavily

bandaged.

“I went back for a check-up last month and they said I could start

walking again. But I still feel very weak, so I don’t know when I will return to

professional golf.”

Whenever that may be, it will be an uphill battle for Hlophe.

He finished 160th on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit last season,

having made only one out of 11 cuts last year.

And as such he has lost his playing privileges on the Tour.

He also didn’t enter the Sunshine Tour qualifying school at the end

of last year, or the Vusi Ngubeni Development Stroke Play tournament, which is

the Tour’s qualifying school for development players, to try and reclaim his

Tour card.

“I’ve got no sponsors and it’s been pretty tough just sitting at

home all the time. I have no income and am living with my parents, who rely on

the government grant for support.

“And while I was in hospital, they broke into my house and stole

everything.”

Hlophe has long been one of the most recognisable black

professionals on the Sunshine Tour.

After starting out in the game as a caddie at the Soweto Country

Club, he claimed a second place in the 1997 Sunshine Tour qualifying school and

immediately turned professional.

He has not had a victory on the Tour, but has recorded 10 top-10s

in his career.

His moment of glory came in the 1999 Alfred Dunhill Championship at

Houghton Golf Club.

In a tournament co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and the European

Tour, Hlophe made the halfway cut in a field including Ernie Els and some of

Europe’s top professionals.

At the time, it was a powerful affirmation of the Tour’s

development policy.

But while his return to the Tour remains doubtful, Hlophe’s desire

to return is unquestionable.

“I want to get back out there. I’m hungry for the game,” he said.

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