The value of golf pros giving back

Kyle McClatchie (background) helps a young South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) golfer work on his game during a golf clinic at the Vodacom Origins of Golf Final at the Simola Golf and Country Estate on Tuesday. Credit: Tyrone Winfield.

Whether it’s Gary Player, Charl Schwartzel, Dylan Frittelli, Kyle McClatchie or a young South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) golfer dreaming of becoming a professional one day – all of them remember the first time they met a pro golfer who made an impact in their lives.

On Tuesday, another group of young SAGDB golfers were given a golf clinic at the Sunshine Tour’s Vodacom Origins of Golf Final at the Simola Golf and Country Estate.

McClatchie, one of the professionals helping with the clinic, was in awe of some of the swings he was looking at. And at the same time, he was well aware of the kind of impact a Tuesday afternoon interaction on a windy driving range with a young golfer from Riversdal can have.

“My earliest memory of meeting professional golfers who I really looked up to would be guys like Neil Schietekat and Trevor Fisher, who played a lot at Modderfontein Golf Club where I played. They were just great guys to be around, and still are. I mean, Trevor must be the nicest player on the Sunshine Tour. They were always willing to talk to you. It’s so cool to be playing with them now,” he said.

Even the greatest professionals can still recall their first meeting with a pro golfer.

For Schwartzel, it was going to the Nedbank Golf Challenge as a child and ducking under the ropes at the putting green at the Gary Player Country Club to steal a golf ball Ernie Els had putted with before leaving for the first tee.

Dylan Frittelli was already well on his path to success when he teed it up with Els for the first time in his career during the 2018 South African Open. And even this was a big moment for Frittelli.

“I was really looking forward to it the night before, but it took me a while to get to sleep to be honest. It was great just to see how he goes about playing the game. He’s a class player. The nice thing was that I played well. I kind of got to show off in front of Ernie, and gain some respect,” he said.

Sunshine Tour professional Jacquin Hess was himself once a young SAGDB development golfer who attended a golf clinic on a driving range, with Gary Player.

“I was one of these kids. I know what this can mean to them. It meant a lot to me,” he said.

Even Player himself will tell you of the time he played the 1958 US Open with the legendary Ben Hogan. It was Player’s debut in the US Open. He was 22 years old.

“I finished second. Afterward, in the locker room, Hogan came up to me and said, ‘Well played. Do you practice hard?’ I answered, ‘Yes Sir’. He replied, ‘Double it’ and went into the dining room.”

Who knows how the impact of that conversation shaped what would become Player’s mantra: “The harder I practice, the luckier I get”.

Nobody may yet have heard of a young SAGDB golfer attending a golf clinic on a windy Tuesday afternoon on the driving range at Simola. But who knows what he heard in the encouraging words of the Sunshine Tour professional helping him, and what he’ll do with it.