Internationally renowned South African golfer Gary Player cherishes the dream that his golf academy will produce the country’s first black champion in the mould of Tiger Woods.
Although Woods has recently been out of form, the world’s former top golfer undoubtedly has an impeccable record and still ranks among the world’s most successful golfers.
The legendary Player, who turns 80 in November, has a distinguished record that includes winning nine major championships during his career as a professional golfer.
The veteran this week told City Press his aim was to see more up-and-coming black golfers benefiting through the Gary Player School for Champions. The academy is connected to the SA Golf Development Board, which unearths talent from various townships.
Player said he was concerned about the country’s lack of top black golfers.
Vincent Tshabalala was the country’s only black player to win big on the European stage when he captured the French Open title on the European Tour way back in 1976.
The Alexandra-born Tshabalala, who is now 73, currently plays in the seniors.
James Kamte, who plays on the Sunshine Tour, was destined for a great future internationally after he captured the Asian Tour International in Thailand in 2009.
But the Eastern Cape-born player is now battling to regain his form.
Nonetheless, Player believes his dream to see his academy produce more black champions is certainly achievable.
“It’s sad to realise that there has not been any black winner on the European stage since Vincent.
“My dream is to see the academy produce at least one or two black champs in the mould of Tiger before I die,” said Player.
He is convinced that the Gary Player School is the perfect conduit to nurture local talent.
“We identify young players from 13 regions throughout the country.
“From the 200 players that we have, we must find at least a few who can be developed into the golfing stars of tomorrow,” he noted.
Player sees himself and Tshabalala as the country’s golf ambassadors, as they both made their mark in Europe.
He said the school was working hard to produce professional players who could become the next generation of South African golf ambassadors.
Player added that it was disheartening to see talented professional players who did not take their careers seriously – and their talent was inevitably wasted.
“There are too many golfers with potential, but their talent is destroyed because they don’t take the game seriously.
“We want to make sure that doesn’t happen,” he explained.
The SA Golf Development Board is also doing its part to unearth and nurture golf talent.
Darryl Edges, who is a member of the SA Golf Development Board, said the organisation’s programme was helpful to golfers.
“Our programme deals with 2 500 children, whose number will be pruned down to approximately 250. From there we’ll get a 13-member elite squad originating from 13 regions – and ultimately the best players,” Edges explained.