Fore! Black girls are out on the golf course

Golfer Zethu Myeki. Picture: GolfRSA/Rogan Ward

Golfer Zethu Myeki. Picture: GolfRSA/Rogan Ward

Published Nov 5, 2022


Johannesburg - Zethu Myeki hails from Mdantsane, the East London township known as the Mecca of boxing in South Africa for having produced more professional pugilists than any other location in the country.

While in Grade VII in 2009, she used to walk past a soccer field where a group of girls were busy with golf practice. She was interested but too shy to approach the girls to let her in. Her saving grace was a fellow student from her school who ultimately invited her into the fold.

Today Myeki is a professional golfer. This week she was playing at the two-day Standard bank Pro-Am Series tournament at the Houghton Golf Club on Wednesday and Thursday, one of just under five black female golfers. The ladies were playing for an R600 000 purse in a field comprising 39 professionals, among them a few visiting internationals. Myeki came sixth.

She recalls taking three taxis to golf practice once she got the feel of the game. Looking back, she says it was “how much I wanted it”. Once the bug bit, there was no stopping her. She had a knack for the game as she flew through the rankings. In no time, the girl from Mdantsane, who is turning 29 next month, was playing for the province.

“It all started at the soccer pitch,” she smiles shyly. She replays the picture in her head of passing by the soccer field on the way from school. “Yes, I used to see girls practising, but I was too scared to go ask. One of the girls was in my school, so I asked her.”

In 2010 she joined a golf development foundation and quickly her talents saw her move to Johannesburg in 2015. “It was when I was here that I got the opportunity to be part of the South African squad.”

Playing for her country also granted the young golfer the chance to see the world, travelling to places such as Tunisia, Ghana, eSwatini, India twice, and then Houston, Texas. She says whenever they played on the continent, the SA team “always wins”.

“Yesterday I shot two-under,” she says of her game this week in the Standard bank Pro-Am Series, “Today I finished birdie, birdie, birdie. My puts were dropping.”

Zethu Myeki in action. Picture: Sunshine Ladies Tour

Her language is a golfer’s. “I’m happy with my performance,” she said before the winner was announced. She is a far cry now from the novice who used to spend time hitting and fetching golf balls on a soccer pitch, in a township where the sport of choice is boxing.

“Golf is not an easy sport but if you put your mind to something, it will work out. I wanted it. You have to work hard. You have to put in the commitment,” says Myeki, who plays out of Randpark Golf Club and is sponsored by Investec.

Yolanda Duma, 32, is also from East London and plays her golf out of Bryanston Country Club, where she also works. Duma turned pro in 2017.

“I was introduced to golf by my father. It was me and my sister. She, unfortunately, broke her arm and cannot play anymore. But everyone in the family used to play. We used to go to the golf course to watch my father. That’s where we got the interest."

Duma is currently studying a PGA course to be a qualified pro. She’s a touring pro at present. Once she finishes the course, she will be able to coach.

“I can live off it,” she says of the money she earns from the greatest game ever invented. “I currently do not have a sponsor. But I get around from playing by using the money I get from playing.”

It helps that she also has an income from managing the range at Bryanston Country Club. “I love Tiger Woods. I grew up watching him.”

Duma says her best score ever is 62. Some males will never score this in a lifetime of playing.

Jenny Havenga is the founder of the Standard Bank Pro-Am where the bank only has naming rights. She says they paired three amateurs and one pro in a four-ball.

The Pro-Am Series and the Golf Development Programme feed off each other, Havenga says.

“It’s all about the growth of women’s golf in South Africa. The Golf Development Programme is all about grassroots training, from scratch. We use SNAG, (starting new at golf) plastic clubs to teach the young ones how to grip, posture … the fundamentals of golf. We work with the schools. We recruit the girls who show interest. In a year, we take them through four levels. It takes one year and a half of training. Golf can be a very difficult sport,” Havenga says.

SA golf team manager Zethu Myeki with Cole Stevens and Kayiuree Moodley at the 2018 Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Picture: GolfRSA

Of the four nodes from where they source the girls, one is Orange Farm, in the south of Johannesburg.

Caryn Louw, a teacher, with girls from Millennium Primary School that is trained at the upmarket Serengeti golf course was with her charges at the tournament so they could see women like them in the flesh.

“We go to Orange Farm, on a weekly or fortnightly, to go out there to train the girls. We had 32 children; now there are 20 of them coming to Serengeti. They had never seen greens, never seen a proper golf course.

All of a sudden, they are going to be on a proper course. The youngest is about nine. We have a couple from high school. The juniors seem to be very keen. They listen. We took them on the course to see Zethu. We are in the second year now. There are a lot of promising ones."