KZN golfer earns a place in Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation

2011-11-09 00:00

TWO of South Africa’s greatest golfers Ernie Els and Retief Goosen are good friends on and off the golf course. It also seems that they share an eye for talent.

Late last year, Goosen spotted the South African Golf Development Board’s (SAGDB) Siyanda Mwandla during a coaching clinic at the South African Open at the Durban Country Club. He was so impressed with the young man’s swing, that he fetched a new driver from the TaylorMade equipment van and handed it to him.

Nearly a year later Mwandla has also earned Els’s recognition through his acceptance next year, into the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation. The 17-year-old from the rural areas outside Umhlali in KwaZulu-Natal will be joining the elite foundation after impressing at the trials held at the Gardner Ross Golf Estate in September.

“He couldn’t believe it when he heard that he had been accepted,” said the SAGDB’s development manager for KZN Joseph Kunene. “He is over the moon and really looking forward to improving his game.”

The blossoming of Mwandla’s talent has been quite exceptional, given that he only started playing golf in 2008. Although he had been caddying at Mandini Golf Club before that, it was only when he joined the SAGDB’s programme that he had a chance to learn the game he now loves.

“Siyanda is really dedicated to his game,” Kunene says. “He goes the extra mile to practise on his own almost every day on an open field near his house. He can only practise his iron shots because the area is too small to hit his driver. For him to get to the Umhlali Golf Club, where he is a member, he needs to catch a taxi that costs R20. He can’t travel

often because he simply can’t afford to. But he hasn’t let that stop him from practising. And now he’s seeing how that practice pays off,” he said.

Mwandla is currently playing off a one handicap and is the top SAGDB player on its national

order of merit. He also recently captained the KZN team to

victory at the SA Games in Polokwane, and won the individual competition at the same event.

It’s not only his golf that is impressive, however. Kunene is full of praise for Mwandla’s focus on his studies too.

“Give this youngster two more years and he will go places in this game,” Kunene says, echoing what Goosen had to say about him on that memorable day in Durban last year.

“Keep an eye out for him,” the two-time U.S. Open champion said then. “He is going to develop into a great golfer.”

Now Els and his foundation will have a close interest in ensuring that Goosen’s prediction comes true.

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