The Southern Africa PGA Tour, better known as the Sunshine Tour, has a proud history of development programs, dating back to 1991 when the PGA of South Africa was one of the first sports bodies in South Africa to become fully integrated and unified.
The Big Easy Tour and additional invitations for previously disadvantaged professionals into Sunshine Tour tournaments are examples of existing initiatives.
It is clear, however, that the greatest hurdles to success among black professionals are predominantly socio-economic and the new initiative launched today at the Momentum World of Golf in Woodmead will be looking to address many of these.
Travel and accommodation are major obstacles for professional golfers looking to join a Tour that criss-crosses the southern regions of the African continent. Swing coaches, fitness gurus and nutrition plans are all part of the successful professional’s armoury. It is these factors that the new programme, under the leadership of legendary PGA professional and Sunshine Tour head rules official Theo Manyama, will be looking to address by supporting some 30 previously disadvantaged professionals to varying degrees.
Under the watchful eye of Manyama the Gary Player Class of 2017, as the group will be known, will gather today at the Gary Player Golf Experience at the Momentum World of Golf for the first of three planned ‘boot camps’ and will be assessed with regard to all aspects of their game. Mental coaches, swing coaches and equipment specialists will be brought in to guarantee the players have the base needed to compete at the highest level.
‘We’re really trying to come together and form a team here,’ said Manyama. ‘It’s been a short space of time to put a plan into action, but we’re focusing on making this a successful team and getting these guys competing at the highest level.’
The Sunshine Tour program is being supported by corporate patrons that include Investec Property, Morecorp, Virgin Active, Rhode Island, PWC, MultiChoice, BMW, the Darren Clarke Foundation and ISM. In addition to their support of the programme, Investec Property will sponsor the top two players from the group of 30 on the 2017 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit to the tune of R200,000 each for a year.
The journey to success in professional golf is a difficult one and, with limited resources, it is even more of a challenge. While there has been some success from black professionals in the recent past, the Sunshine Tour is keen to see professionals from this group go on to win in Europe and America and even to add to South Africa’s impressive tally of Major winners. Who better to get motivation from than nine-time Major winner Gary Player himself?