CAPE TOWN (31 May 2016) – The array of world-class professionals to come out of the Southern and Eastern Cape such as Louis Oosthuizen, Lee-Anne Pace and Branden Grace are matched by some of the best PGA professionals in the country working with them.
Michael Vlismas – This corner of South African golf is fast becoming a hotbed of both playing and coaching talent.
Respected PGA of South Africa professionals Val Holland, Peter Berman and Roger Wessels are amongst those behind the success of golf in this region.
Holland, based in George, has long been known for her work with multiple Ladies European Tour winner Pace until the golfer recently moved closer to Cape Town. She is also the national coach for Women’s Golf South Africa, the head coach for the Louis Oosthuizen Golf Academy and the head coach for the Southern Cape Women’s Interprovincial team.
Berman is the trusted swing coach to European and PGA Tour campaigner Grace, and is also behind a local initiative to get golf into schools in the region.
And as the head coach at the KeNako Academy in George, Wessels is drawing talented golfers from as far afield as Switzerland as the respect for his coaching skills grows internationally.
“I don’t know what it is about this part of the country that’s seen us all land up here but it’s certainly the place to be for golf. It’s very exciting,” says Holland, who recently celebrated two of her golfers at the Louis Oosthuizen Golf Academy being selected for the first Golf RSA National Squad of 34 players.
“We’ve got about 20 golfers in the academy and for two of them to make it into the National Squad is quite an achievement,” says Holland.
Berman, the founder of the Scratch Golf Academy in Knysna, is equally excited about how the region is contributing to the overall success of South African golf.
“We breathe golf here. I played junior golf with Louis Oosthuizen and we had a great mentor in Vaughn Tucker who gave us all a real passion for the game. In my provincial team, seven out of the eight of us landed up working in the golf industry.
“We’re also blessed to have a few golf academies here. We’ve got the academy at Fancourt, KeNako, Louis Oosthuizen’s academy and then my own Scratch Golf. And we have a great junior programme in the region. We have junior tournaments almost every weekend.”
For both Holland and Berman, their successes with Pace and Grace respectively have opened the door for them to pursue their passion of growing the game amongst children.
“As a coach I like to keep it as simple as possible,” says Holland. “Kids don’t like the technical side of things. I’m very strict on keeping it basic and letting them understand their own swing. If they’re going to travel as professionals one day they won’t have their coaches with them all the time. I also put a lot of emphasis on fitness and the mental side of the game.”
Berman is busy spearheading a drive to make golf a school sport that enjoys the easy access of the traditional sports, and using the popular SNAG golf programme supported by the PGA of South Africa.
“Traditional school sports are free at the point of entry. I’ve always had an issue with golf not being free. We’re relying on parents to educate kids in golf and then when they’re 13 or 14 they maybe get the opportunity to join an academy.
“So I teamed up with the Knysna Sports School, which is a non-profit organisation. We’ve now trained three of their coaches as golf instructors and we’re delivering SNAG in five schools for free to about 720 children. They get golf coaching during their physical education. It’s just an introduction to golf, but if we can make golf part of the school curriculum and get that fun aspect early on, who knows how many more golfers we can create in this country.”