Gary Player was beaming as he approached the microphone, eager to announce his redesigned golf course at the
Soweto Country Club.
The South African golf legend has created hundreds of golf courses across the world, but this one appeared to have a special place in his heart.
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“The greatest thrill that I’ve had in all the design we’ve done,” Player said, “is this place, right here in the Soweto Country Club.”
Player remembered a moment when young children ran alongside his cart and showed desire to get involved in golf.
The memory sparked Player’s ambition for the Soweto Country Club: not only to make a great community golf course, but to help develop the next black champion golfer.
“My dream, which I’ve said for 20 years,” Player said.
“We got a shot to get together and develop a young black golfer, a South African.
“We have talent … everybody is anxious to see a champion black golfer – we can develop a Tiger Woods.”
Player understands better than anyone how to develop a golfer from an impoverished background since he grew up as a “poor boy living in the bush.
“I used to lay in bed wanting to
die,” Player said.
“I was so lonely, my mother was dead, my father was at the mine, my brother was out to war, my sister was in boarding school and then golf came into my life.”
Player is hoping that the game of golf can become the refuge for other “down-and-outs”, the way it was for him.
“We are already getting lots of young people coming in here and now we got to get pros to give lessons,” Player said.
“There will be a special development programme going on here.”
Even if it doesn’t lead to a champion golfer, the Soweto Country Club will still be a source of pride for Player.
“The beautiful thing is that young people are realising if they start golf now they have a sport forever,” Player said.
“It’s not play and away, it’s play and stay.”