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Durban author pens book in honour of Papwa Sewgolum

Robbie Naidoo, Marketing Executive at Sibaya Casino; Rajen Sewgolum, son of golfer Papwa Sewgolum; Selvan Naidoo Author of ‘Out of the Rough’ and Justin Govindasamy, DTP Manager at Sibaya Casino. Picture: Supplied

Robbie Naidoo, Marketing Executive at Sibaya Casino; Rajen Sewgolum, son of golfer Papwa Sewgolum; Selvan Naidoo Author of ‘Out of the Rough’ and Justin Govindasamy, DTP Manager at Sibaya Casino. Picture: Supplied

Published Dec 9, 2020

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Durban – Selvan Naidoo, the curator and board director of the 1860 Heritage Centre, recently launched a pictorial book on the life of Papwa Sewgolum.

Out of the Rough, Papwa, A Player Denied was launched this month at the Mount Edgecombe Country Club.

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Naidoo is the son of a waiter who passed on his reverence for the greatest golfer of his lifetime.

He worked with the Sewgolum family album, scoured Security Branch files and the archives to piece together a simple tribute to a phenomenon on the greens and beyond.

The 1860 Heritage Centre in partnership with Sibaya Casino and Mt Edgecombe Country Club hosted the book launch in honour of Papwa.

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The book launch was attended by the likes of MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Ravi Pillay, Sam Ramsamy, executive chairperson of South African Non- Racial Olympic Committee (SAN-ROC) from 1976 to 1991 and Natal Indian Congress, Struggle Activist Judge Thumba Pillay among others.

This is an extract from the chapter ‘Unbridled talent …’

IN THE world of career golf, only professionals qualify to play on the tour circuit. The biggest tour circuit with the most prize money is the PGA Tour of America.

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The next biggest is the European Tour, followed by the Asian Tour. Here in South Africa, we have the Sunshine Tour. If you are lucky enough to be called a tour professional, winning a tournament means that you have fulfilled your lifelong ambitions.

In Papwa’s case, winning a golf tournament was made even more extraordinary given that his introduction to the world of golf started off by him carrying a golf bag to earn a living.

Funding always remained a problem for Papwa to play in tournaments.

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With the greater demands on Sewgolum’s time after winning the Dutch Open, the need to schedule events and maximise his playing and income opportunities required the skills of a dedicated manager.

Louis Nelson, a former caddie and a trade union leader in the liquor and catering union, took over managerial responsibilities for the rising star. Nelson set up the Papwa Sewgolum Trust Fund with the aim of raising funds for international travel.

The Papwa Trust Fund was formed under the chairmanship of Louis Nelson. The committee was made up of M Misra (secretary), EI Haffejee (vice-chairman), G “Pumpy” Naidoo and R Lutchman (treasurer).

They were confident of a generous response with a cheque for £25 being received from Papwa’s employers. The money was raised by various means with a target of £1 000. With a great measure of difficulty, the goal was reached after a few months and Papwa was able to make his second trip to the UK and Europe in 1960; this time around he used a more conventional flight.

Many of Papwa’s detractors would have argued that his first Dutch Open win was a mere “flash in the pan”. He duly proved them wrong as he went on to win and defend his Dutch Open 1960.

Papwa opened with a strong first round of 69 and took a three-stroke lead from Belgian Arthur Devulde. Papwa had a good second round of 71 but found himself in joint leadership with Devulde, who scored 69. In the third round, after carding 71 he was back out in front, two strokes ahead of Brian Huggett and Denis Hutchinson (1959 SA Open champion).

With a final round of 69 and with scores of 69, 71, 71 and 69 (280) he romped to victory, beating fellow South African Denis Hutchinson 72, 71, 70 and 70 (283) into second place, followed by Bernard Huggett and Gerard de Wit, for a three-shot victory.

Tragically, even though he had won the Dutch Open for a second time, Papwa could not play in South African tournaments organised and run for white players. Post the Dutch Open victory, Louis Nelson began to test local golfing organisations for Papwa in more whites-only tournaments.

In January 1961, Nelson applied for Papwa to participate in the all-white Natal Open Championship.

The matter was debated on 16 January 1961 and referred to the South African Golf Union which stated that it would be considered at a meeting of the full executive, meaning that Papwa could not participate that year.

Papwa then applied to play in the South African Open and after legal counsel, the union accepted Papwa’s entry on the condition that he obtained a permit under the Group Areas Act.

Permission to use the course was granted by FW de Klerk on the condition that Papwa could not practise on the course or enter the clubhouse. De Klerk stressed that the permit was “a most exceptional case”.

“This is a person whom we have not allowed to participate in a mixed golf tournament but who was merely allowed to make use of the facilities provided on the course. That is all. I do not want … [there] … to be the slightest doubt as to the policy of the government in connection with apartheid in sport.”

Sadly for Papwa, he jammed his finger in a car door and was injured just before the tournament. Further to this, he was not allowed to practise on the course like all other participants were allowed to. Papwa’s Group Areas permit had only given him permission to play for the three days of the tournament.

Papwa was forced to change in his car and eat with black caddies, as he was not allowed into the whites-only change room and canteen.

Given these factors and the local and international attention on him, unsurprisingly, Papwa finished sixteenth.

Papwa’s triumphs in the Dutch Open increased his confidence and gave him more experience in winning tournament golf.

He totally dominated the Non-European Golf Tour circuit in South Africa. For several years in the 1950s, following the break-up of Currie’s Fountain in Durban, thousands of black golfers had no golfing facilities until a new course was opened at Springfield on 16 December 1961 by Durban deputy mayor Jack Forsdick.

In his home province of Natal, Papwa reigned supreme for many years.

He won the Natal Non-European Championship in 1960, four times in consecutive years and his sixth victory in seven years.

In 1961 he won at Umbogintwini once again by a mile going away, and again at Kloof CC in 1962, then at Circle Country Club in 1963, and Maritzburg in 1964.

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