Golf: a delightful new struggle for some

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Andrew_Mlangeni

INLSA

Rivonia trialist and former Robben Island prisoner Andrew Mlangeni rekindled his love for golf after his release from prison. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Johannesburg – I should have obeyed my inner voice telling me not to overdo it. But there I was, feeling euphoric and running up and down a rugby field at St Andrews University late in September on a beautiful autumn day during the week the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship was played, and I was in Scotland to cover the tournament for our newspaper group. At my age I shouldn’t really run when in shoes ill-suited for the occasion.

Well, I paid the consequences and now have a pain-ful left heel, a combination of a chipped bone and a condition called plantar fasciitis which is quite common among us “older folk” and can take quite a while to heal.

Now I admit a whole lot of people are far worse off than me and I shouldn’t complain too much. But because I find walking uncomfortable, I haven’t been able to play golf (except for two rounds driving a cart) and I’ve come to realise how much I miss the game. Like many who play it, I’ve become addicted to it since I discovered it over 50 years ago and then quite by chance connected a shot in the sweet spot.

Once you get that feeling you’re hooked!

So my Tuesday morning rounds with the boys at Randpark, walking that gorgeous Bushwillow course, have currently been put on hold. I miss making a hard-earned par. Come to think of it, I even miss making a bit of a hash of a hole because at least you’re out there.

To sum up, I’m a little grumpy about my lack of golf although this has been tempered by the events of the past nine days or so since our beloved Madiba passed away. Everything is given a new perspective when one considers what a wonderful, giving life he lived.

And, being a golfer, I got to think about Andrew Mlangeni, Mandela’s fellow Rivonia trialist and Robben Island inmate, whose prison cell was back-to-back with his great friend Nelson during their incarceration.

I’m not sure whether Nelson Mandela played golf, but as soon as Andrew Mlangeni was finally released he was up for a round as he had caddied as a young boy, and as a young man had played the game and fell in love with it.

And his passion for golf has remained with him. Not only has he been a feisty competitor (Has he made the odd birdie? You bet he has) in his 70s and now well into his 80s, but he has linked his involvement with the game with his own charity-driven golf days, and his support of the SA Golf Development Board which nurtures the young, underprivileged wannabe champions.

I remember in 2010 attending Comrade Andrew’s annual golf day – hosted by Lexmark South Africa and held at the Serengeti Estate – where funds were raised for his Mlangeni Soweto Winter Blanket Project. That golf day doubled as a commemorative 85th birthday celebration for this revered struggle veteran.

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe gave the keynote address at a gala dinner that evening, saying: “As a passionate golfer, we wish Ntata Mlangeni all the best in his ‘new struggle’ to improve his handicap of 14.”

A 14 handicap at age 85? That in itself was pretty splendid going.

Goodness, Andrew Mlangeni waited a quarter of a century before he could pick up a club again. So who am I to complain about a little while on the sidelines waiting for a dodgy ankle to heal?

Well, I’ll just be a little bit grumpy ...

Saturday Star


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