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Advancement of the underprivileged in golf

This article was published in the brochure for the Western Province Open in 1960.


How far the underprivileged have advanced in the game?

By R. G. FALL, Editor, "South African Golf" (1960)

The request to write an article on the development of Non-European golf is one that appeals very strongly to me, just as I feel that the reading of it will appeal strongly to my readers. How could it be otherwise when in South Africa almost directly we start to play the person closest to us during a round, more often than not, is a Non-European caddie? And it is from the caddie ranks, almost in­variably, that the Non-European golfer springs.

Until quite recently all that the average golfer knew about Non-European golf was the occasional caddie competition in his club. He knew of course that some of the caddies played very fine golf; he was made to realise it whenever he watched some of the lads swinging clubs, or apologies for clubs, either on the course or adjacent caddie enclosure. But it was not until quite recently, when the former Indian caddie, Sewsunker Sewgolum (Papwa), and the Transvaal African, Edward Johnson-Sedibe, took part in the British Open, and when Papwa won the Dutch Open with an excel­lent score, that the average golfer realised how far the Non-European had advanced in the world of golf.

Well now you do know that the Non-­European is well-prepared to take his place in the game of golf. Over 800 golfers, many of them Europeans, followed Papwa round the Milnerton course early in Jan­uary during his last round, when he won the S.A. Non-European Championship with returns of 80, 80, 74, 74 - a wonderful effort in view of the ferocious south-easter that threatened to bowl every player off his feet. And he only won by two strokes from one of the Western Province players, R. L. Brown, who also had a 74 on the second day, when par could be rated at 78. It could have been rated at 80 during some portions of the first day.

My knowledge of the history of Non-­European golf is limited, so there will be omissions from this article, for which I apologise to the people chiefly concerned. But I can say that my files contain a fair amount of matter on the subject, so there will not be too much ground for complaint.

The first club for Non-Europeans was probably founded in Natal, where the Durban Indian Golf Club was formed in January, 1929, the course of nine holes being at the Indian Recreation Grounds (Currie Fountain). The players, mostly caddies, were very keen indeed, and in the first year membership totalled well over a hundred. That many of the members had played good golf before was very clear. In the first year there was one member on scratch and four with a handicap of one. No doubt the handicapping may have been a bit lax, and the allocation of par not quite up to modern European standards, but then again it must be remembered that the course, as is the case with every other Non-European course in South Africa, was bad. Very bad. And a hole 250 yards in length might be well worth a bogey of four.

Let me add, before going any further, that the Non-European golfer in every centre deserves something better than this. Let me say, still further, that it appears he is very likely to get it. Durban will be the first on the list with a good course. The Council has £4,000 on its estimates for the provision of a golf course for the Non­-Europeans, and, given a course, the Indian golfers, just as the African golfers in the Transvaal and the Coloured golfers in the Western Province would do, will prove themselves to be most worthy keepers of the course and most worthy upholders of the traditions of golf.

That is my firm conviction after many years of happy association with the Non­European golfers in the Western Province.

Second in the field with a Non-European golf club and course was the Transvaal, where in 1930 the Payneville G.C. was founded, and in the following year the Wynberg G.C. The president of this club, the late Mr. J. Jass, was very highly respected in both European and Non­-European circles, and he it was who was so largely responsible for the formation of the Transvaal Non-European Golfing Union just before World War II. He gave the trophy which goes with the S.A. Non­-European Championship, and the trophy bears his name.

Largely because of greater numbers, and the willingness of municipalities and other authorities to permit the Africans to use certain sites for golf, with, in no instance, any security of tenure, the game among the Non-Europeans in the Transvaal has advanced far more rapidly than elsewhere in the Union. To-day there must be well over 40 clubs affiliated to the Transvaal Non-European Golf Association.

This Union has produced several "An­nuals". The one that is lying on my desk at this moment is for 1953-54. It has four covers and 32 pages of reading matter and pictures, 10" x 7". The editor was Mr. S. Mnisi, whose enthusiasm remains unabated, as shown by the fact that, as assistant of the South African Non-European Golf Association, he was present at Milnerton in January this year in order to help in the management of the S.A. Non-European Championship.

Mr. Mnisi showed himself to be a capable writer as well as a good editor by his production of the Annual. I doubt whether it has been produced annually: but I'm sure it's not this gentleman's fault if it wasn't!

Of the other centres which are affiliated to the South African Non-European Golf Association I think that Western Province would be the first to be in the field with a club. Though it is more than possible that Griqualand West might have started before the Western Province, because the S.A. Championship was played at Kimber­ley in 1954, two years before it was held in the Cape.

In the Orange Free State, Border and Eastern Province many clubs have been formed. The game advances rapidly with the Non-European everywhere.

However, let me interrupt the historical survey and give you a very human story of one of the very early "occasions" in connection with Western Province Non-­European golf.

Mr. Peter Louw, now vice-president of the South African Non-European Golf Association - he carried my clubs most effi­ciently in the days of Auld Lang Syne - ­has been organising golf among his frater­nity for over 30 years. Fortunately for his enthusiasm, he gets around the Cape Pro­vince a great deal, and, wherever he is, he organises clubs, and then afterwards he organises the clubs he has caused to be formed into district associations. A truly amazing man. He seems to live for golf.

In 1936 or thereabouts Peter and his friends got hold of a bit of vacant ground off Ottery Road, Wynberg, on which they worked to such a degree that they soon got a course going, and almost as soon had organised a tournament, most of the participants being caddies.

I remember how one of Peter's friends wrote a letter to me about the competition to be held there - the "Sunningdale Park Golf Club of Ottery Road" had been formed by this time - in which he invited all golfers to be present and to see the play. "Our ground is very rough, but we play really well over it, and at home we guaran­tee to beat the British open champion, Alf Padgham, or anyone else who dares to face us on our own course!"

Well, the little piece in "South African Golf" was read by one of the Indian golfers in Durban, and he got in touch with Peter. In his letter he said that he himself and twelve other men would come to play in the next championship if they were eligible. Among the twelve would be the great R.T. Singh, who was regarded as unbeatable, and who had put up some truly phenomenal scores on all the courses he played on. Also in the twelve would be the two Indian cad­dies, Jack Nathan and Supersadh, who had defeated Alf Padgham and Allan Dailey, another leading pro. from Britain, over the course of the Durban Country Club.

So you see that the threat that Padgham or anyone else these Non-Europeans ever met at "Sunningdale Park" would go "through the hoop" was by no means idle. If the British Open champion and a partner could be beaten over a championship course, what would have happened to them over the rough-and-ready affair at Ottery Road is anyone's guess.

And so it goes with the Non-European golfers. "Sunningdale Park" one minute, and then, having been told to clear out, they open up again on some spot that seems available until once more they are moved on again. Mere golfing pariahs.

One of their moves took them to Thorn­hill (Cape Flats). While there Mr. Rex Walker, captain of the Westlake Golf Club at the time (1957), one of the patrons of Non-European golf, issued an appeal for the support of an application by the "Western Province (Non-European) Golf Union to the Cape Town City Council for help in establishing an 18-hole champion­ship course for the use of Non-European golfers.

In making his appeal Mr. Walker said: "The enthusiasm which the Coloured popu­lation has directed towards the establish­ment of golfing facilities, despite great difficulties, is much to be admired. It is known that among the numbers of Non­-European golfers are several with un­doubted ability and an opportunity of developing this talent is much to be en­couraged.

"I am sure that our appeal to the sports­men in the community to assist in this venture will meet with sympathy, conse­quently I would be glad of any assistance you can give, and would also like to know if you have any ideas that might help in the furtherance of this project."

To have a 300-yard green belt round Native locations being used for a golf course has everything to commend it. And that was the idea: it is part of town planning. One feels that something really ought to happen in order to bring about such a happy result.

Whether anything will arise from Mr. Walker's appeal is impossible to say. But there is one happy augury. Even before the Milnerton Golf Club so generously offered,

through the medium of its captain, Mr. A. Buirski, the use of its course for the S.A. Non-European Championship - the first time that such a thing has ever happened in the history of golf in South Africa­ - Her Worship the Mayor of Cape Town, Mrs. Joyce Newton Thompson, had very kindly consented to hold a mayoral recep­tion in the Woodstock Town Hall and to present the prizes. This was indeed a won­derful gesture, and it does seem to guaran­tee her support should the golf course scheme for Non-Europeans ever be put before her.

Maybe the idea was dropped. I hope not. If the idea is still in abeyance maybe European golfers will solidly support the Non-Europeans in their request for "a place in the golfing sun".

The question of European golf clubs lending their courses for important Non-­European tournaments is important. Mil­nerton has set what most golfers would probably regard as a fine sporting pre­cedent. It is most probable that never again will the Non-Europeans play a major tour­nament on a course that does not provide a fair test. The European golfers will surely see to that. This time it came about by a fluke. The Non-Europeans, driven off the only available course of their own at Thornhill, tried hard to construct an 18-­hole golf course in two months (!) at Wetton on the Cape Flats, on ground that had been made available to them through the kind intervention of Messrs. Rex Walker, Jack Bowie and Dick Hawke. They were in a real quandary.

How could they invite their friends from the Transvaal, Natal, Griqualand West, Free State and Eastern Province to play over a scratch-about affair only two months in the building? Maritzburg Country Club were hosts for the competitors in the Natal Midlands (Non­-European) Championship, which Papwa won after a tie with Lawrence Butelezi. European clubs elsewhere have made similar gesture. Obviously they could not. It was then, through the president of the W.P.G.U., Mr. Freddie Cannon, Mr. Tony Buirski, Mr. R. K. Bromley (hon. vice­-president of the W.P. (Non-European) Golf Association and others that the Milnerton course came to be used.

It was not all "beer and skittles" for the players. Take that fine Transvaal golfer, Simon Cox Hlapo, winner of the champion­ship three times these last six years. With the south-easter blowing harder than it has done for years - and that s-e wind can blow "some" at Milnerton, real pukka stuff to test the hardiest golfer - poor Hlapo suffered more than the others. He was blown clean off his game. And whereas on his own artificial sand greens he putts well, or even on rough grass greens on which he putts well with an iron, he was altogether at sea on good grass greens, with a proper implement in his hand.

The writer, in chatting with Hlapo, told him jokingly, after the first day's play, that he intended to ask the clerk of the weather to arrange for a calm day for the third and fourth rounds on the second day. Hlapo replied, in what sounded like an Ox­ford accent: "Oh, Mr. Fall, I should be so grateful to you if you would!"

Of all the players in the tournament I liked Hlapo's style the best: smooth as butter! Not one of the others hit the ball quite so far with such an easy, effortless swing. Pity he simply could not get going this time. In November last at Kroonstad he won the N.E. Free State Championship with two 68's. In winning the S.A. title in 1958 with 290 he had a second round of 66. The man has a wonderful record.

Whereas Milnerton has been the first European club to offer the Non-Europeans their course for a big meeting, and to have that kind offer accepted, gratefully, other European clubs have made similar gestures. Maritzburg Country Club were hosts for the competitors in the Natal Midlands (Non-Eoropean) Championship, which Papwa won after a tie with Lawrence Butelezi, the Howick caddiemaster, both 72. And that's returned over the course.

The West Bank G.C., East London, have permitted Non-Europeans to hold an open event over their course once a year. I should say that the club was the first ever to do so.

It is doubtful if there are any more clubs who have made similar gestures. At any rate, it is a start, and no doubt these deserv­ing Non-European golfers will be the reci­pients of many more similar favours in the years to come. Until such time indeed as they have facilities of their very own: good courses and good accommodation for the rest-and-refreshment periods. They have many well-wishers that this will happen in the very near future, and the writer of these lines is one of them.

Mention of the 72 by two Non-Europeans at Maritzburg Country Club leads one in­evitably to the question: Just how really good are these players? How would they compare with the best of the Europeans were they to be given a fair chance of getting accustomed to golf on champion­ship courses?

Everything points to them holding their own. In the cricket world several friendly matches have taken place in the Western Province between European and Non­European fairly representative sides. I have never heard of the Non-Europeans being defeated. And only recently in Johannes­burg a Transvaal Invitation XI of Coloureds and Indians beat a Transvaal European team, which contained the Glamorgan pro­fessional Peter Walker, by an innings and 52 runs. The Non-Europeans batted first and declared, 397 for 5 wickets.

I wouldn't dare to suggest that on the golf course anything similar could occur. But if you had seen some of those Non-­European swings in that hurricane at MiI­nerton: seen some of those No. 2 iron shots straight as a bullet, "quail high" straight to the mark against the wind, you would, like I did, begin to wonder.

R G Fall (Editor SA Golf)