WATCH: Putting to victory - Soweto's young golfers thrive against the odds

2018-12-26 09:07
Some of the youth from the Andrew Mlangeni Golf Academy. (Screengrab)

Some of the youth from the Andrew Mlangeni Golf Academy. (Screengrab)

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Four years ago, Prince "Coach Prince" Modiba took on a journey that changed the lives of close to 100 Soweto youths.

The Andrew Mlangeni Golf Academy became the first of its kind in the area, training approximately 90 children and youths in golf.

It has not been easy but the young golfers, armed with determination, strive against the odds. Watch the video above.

"I come from a golfing family. My dad was a tour golf player and my uncle as well," says Modiba.

The 31-year-old coach has been playing golf professionally since he was 19.

When the Soweto Country Club approached him to propose the academy, Modiba was eager to pass on the skills of the sport that defined his life.

He visited a number of schools in Soweto recruiting hesitant, sceptical youths. 

"It was a little bit challenging," says Modiba. "If you come to a school and say, okay - I'm a golf coach, the first thing is the kids are unsure about it."

Modiba says most of the learners were sceptical as they were accustomed to soccer.

To them, golf paled in comparison as an exciting sport. Nonetheless, they gave the "new" sport a try and soon, their attitudes changed.

"[I prefer] golf," says 13-year-old Jabulani Ndlovu who plays both golf and soccer.

The young golfer began playing four years ago and has excelled, says his coach. 

"He's playing with the big boys now," says Modiba. 

Ndlovu now plays at B-Division and dreams of making it all the way to the top.

"I want to see myself playing with McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day," he says, listing some of the world's top golfers.

The Grade 7 learner trains daily at the Academy. When he is not training, he is playing at tournaments such as those hosted by the Central Golf Club Union. 

Ndlovu and his fellow golfers at the Andrew Mlangeni Golf Academy have been thriving, featuring in the top three in their divisions at regional tournaments.

However, while they excel their coach is preoccupied with ensuring their improvement and more importantly, that they will be able to continue playing.

Funding Woes

At the beginning of the academy, Modiba says he and the other coaches shared the load of training the young golfers.

However, they had to cut back when they failed to secure funding.

"We had to let go of some other coaches because we weren't getting the funding," Modiba says. 

"There's a certain ratio to coaching so we just narrowed [down] the kids a little bit so that we can be hands on with them."

Modiba says the lack of funding has also impacted other areas of the academy's performance.

For one, they do not have access to other golf courses due to lack of transportation fees. When they play at tournaments, they essentially play at golf courses on which they've not had practice.

"They need to know the golf courses they play on so that they are familiar with the environment," says Modiba.

"They need to train everyday and at different golf courses."

This is important to allow the golfers room to adapt and make informed plays on the courses.

Modiba says the academy has been running without a budget. Fortunately, a few good Samaritans offered financial assistance making it possible for them to afford food, transport and gear.

"It's been stressful but I'm going to do it regardless," says Modiba.

"We're going to get the next Tiger Woods from Soweto Country Club. Mark my words."

Read more on:    soweto  |  golf  |  good news  |  sport

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