Great golfers becoming even greater South Africans

In a few years’ time, South Africa will be blessed with a new doctor and a new teacher. They will help to take South Africa forward in two of the most critical fields in this country. And a golf development manager will smile, because he knows they represent the fruits of a 20-year investment in the power of golf to change people’s lives.

What started as the vision of Johann Rupert in 1999 to use golf as the vehicle for change in disadvantaged communities is continuing to change children’s lives through the important work done by the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB).

The SAGDB now celebrates its 20th anniversary as the official body for golf development in South Africa, and with a nationwide footprint and the support of all 14 South African golf unions. Its extensive network of managers, coaches and passionate volunteers reaches across South Africa and into the heart of some of the most disadvantaged communities in the country.

But beyond producing better golfers, the SAGDB’s greater impact has been the role it has played in redefining what true sports transformation means. It’s an impact that quietly works itself out over lifetimes, and in the lives of Crystal and Riaan Beukes in particular.

The 18-year-old Crystal Beukes has completed her last year with the SAGDB, having been identified and invited to join as a nine-year-old. This year she heads to the University of Stellenbosch to study medicine. Her brother Riaan also came through the SAGDB, and he is currently studying to become a teacher.

“To have been part of the SAGDB has made a big difference in Crystal’s life. She’s learnt to be independent, how to get along with people of different backgrounds, and it’s just made her a stronger person. Her brother Riaan started it all,” says their mother, Lorna Beukes.

“He started playing golf at age seven and was part of the SAGDB and then later the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation. Crystal used to follow him to the golf course, and then she started herself. The SAGDB is incredible, and they support the children 100 per cent.”

Both her children represent exactly what the SAGDB seeks to achieve, namely not just to produce better golfers, but to hopefully produce better South Africans.

“If we manage to produce a professional golfer, then that is certainly an achievement. But it’s more important for us to develop these children as people, and golf is the perfect facilitator for that,” says Grant Hepburn, the CEO of GolfRSA and the South African Golf Development Board.

In describing what it takes to win Majors, Jack Nicklaus once said, “Great things require great people”.

And as the SAGDB has proved throughout the last 20 years, if you use golf correctly to make great people, they will do great things.