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South Downs Country Club team wins pro-am in Soweto

The winners of the pro-am tournament were from South Downs Country Club.

THE South African Open, which is the second oldest national Open in world of golf, hosted by the City of Joburg came to Soweto Country Club, where the official pro-am took place.

The winners of the pro-am tournament were from South Downs Country Club.

After rain and thunderstorms interrupted play, they came out victorious, flying the flag high for their club.

The team from the South was André Wissler, Ricardo Santos, David Melman and Sidane Blom.

The executive mayor, Geoff Makhubo, and the commissioner of the Sunshine Tour, Selwyn Nathan, handed over the winners’ prizes.

Present on the day present was Dr Andrew Mlangeni, who remembers the day during the 26 years and four months that he was incarcerated on Robben Island when he found three golf balls that gave him hope.

Three golf balls hidden in the long grass of a field he and his fellow political prisoners were clearing on the island. When he found them, he thought he was dreaming.

At Soweto Country Club on Monday, the 94-year-old Mlangeni felt a similar sense of disbelief when the South African Open came to Soweto Country Club.

“Nobody ever dreamt that one day we’d play the SA Open pro-am in Soweto and on a golf course belonging to the people of Soweto. When I saw this, I said to myself there is nothing we cannot do if we all have a common goal,” said Mlangeni.

The hope of working towards a better future sometimes appeared bleak for Mlangeni during his time in prison.

At one point he even admits that the game of golf he grew up loving seemed all but gone from his memory. And then he found those three golf balls.

“One day we were working in a field picking out clumps of grass. Then I picked up three golf balls. I thought it was a dream.

“I worried about how I was going to get them into my cell because they would search us, and I needed those golf balls to remind me of the game.

“I couldn’t understand where the balls came from because the grass was so tall. But then years later, when Tokyo Sexwale was being interviewed by the media, he mentioned something about this nine-hole golf course on the island for the warders.

“Then I knew I hadn’t been dreaming when I found those golf balls,” he said.

With the support of original course designer Gary Player, who upgraded the golf course at no cost, as well as the City of Joburg, The R&A, the PGA Tour, the European Tour and a wealth of private and corporate benefactors, Soweto Country club has already hosted a Sunshine Women’s Tour professional tournament and now the pro-am of a major international golf tournament.

It is also home to a South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) chapter named after Mlangeni.

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