George Mbomboyi taught himself to play golf on bare veld beside a municipal dump, practising his swing with a homemade wire club and a bluegum seed pod for a ball.
But today the children of Nemato township near Port Alfred have a better way of learning the game. They can go to a driving range and have free lessons at the Nemato Golf Club, which has 87 members and is growing.
And the range is just the beginning – George (63) and his clubmates hope to have a nine-hole course ready later this year.
Most of them spent much of their working lives as caddies for the wealthy at Royal Port Alfred Golf Club – but they want the youngsters of Nemato to learn that it isn’t a sport only for the rich.
An existing building, although dilapidated, is being renovated for use as a clubhouse and out in the veld white pegs mark the future tees and iron pins the centre of planned greens on land donated by the municipality.
The National Lottery Board has allocated R500 000 to the project, the president of Royal Port Alfred has provided clubs and balls, and club members paid for the tractor that helped level the ground.
‘‘Golf can teach people persistence and discipline,’’ George says. ‘‘There’s nothing in this township for kids. As soon as they can they leave. If we don’t do something we will be a town of old people.’’
Perhaps one day South Africa’s Tiger Woods will look back and say, ‘‘You know, if it wasn’t for Nemato Golf Club, which gave me the chance to learn the game, I wouldn’t be where I am today!’’ he quips.
* Read the full story in the 10 February issue of YOU.