Ekurhuleni - On a scorching hot morning yesterday, Dr Stephen Mncube sat relaxing on a bench in the shade beside the tee-box at Glendower Golf Club's par-3 sixth hole.
The 75-year-old struggle veteran and self-confessed golf nut was enjoying himself - he was enjoying watching the action in the first round of the BMW South African Open, proudly hosted by Ekurhuleni, but he was also enjoying reminiscing about way back in the 1950s when he used to caddie at Glendower where he is now one of the club's most illustrious members.
"I started out a caddie when I was just 10 years old,” Mncube recalled.
“I was a thin little chap with nice, clean short pants. Because I was so small, the caddie master would make sure I got the lightest bag.
“Bobby Locke was around in those days but I never got to caddie for him. We would get paid half-a-crown (two shillings and sixpence) for the round which would pay for my transport to and from school every day. Because I could speak good English, I'd sometimes charm the 'Madams' and they'd give me an extra shilling, which was quite a bit of money in those days.”
After watching the players putt out, the doctor continued.
“My father had few resources and couldn't offer me much. But what he did encourage me to, as he put it, 'develop my brain'. While other young boys would look around for half-smoked cigarettes, I'd hunt for thrown-out books in the garbage. I was able to establish a nice little library at home.”
Stephen's family lived in what is now Hurleyvale but when the Group Areas Act came into force they were forced to move to Orlando where he spent his teenage years.
“To cut a long story short, living there and being exposed to men like Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisuli, I became politicised. As an angry young man, I ran away to the refugee camps in Africa when I was about 19 or 20.”
While there - and by using his initiative and charm - he was able to land himself a scholarship to study in America at Syracuse University in upstate New York, where he would earn his doctorate in Information Science.
Mncube would spend 30 years studying and working in America until, in 1994, his friend Madiba urged him to return to South Africa.
He would subsequently become chairman of the Independent Communication Authority of South Africa (Icasa) and also serve on the communication task team (Comtask) alongside, among others, FW de Klerk, Mandla Lange and Raymond Louw.
This task team travelled the world in a bid to promote South African goodwill.
Back to the golf at Glendower and Steve, as his golfing buddies call him, applauded enthusiastically as Jaco van Zyl hit a pin-point tee-shot into the heart of the green at the sixth hole. Van Zyl would go on to shoot a sparkling seven-under-par 65 for the first round lead.
“I so love this game and I so love this country,” he said.
“A country which I left as an angry young man but now a country which I hold out so much hope for. We need unity and a sport, like golf, helps bring us together. I'm so pleased to have made a little bit of a difference to this country.
“God has been good to me and blessed me. I'm also so pleased to have had a lifelong love affair with golf. Thinking back, it was when I was a caddie way back here at Glendower that my journey started. This game has taught me so much about myself and about life.”