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South African Youth Program Serves as Link to Pro Golf

South Africa represents less than one percent of the global golf community, yet it has produced some of the world's top golfers through the years, like Gary Player, Bobby Locke, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen. In fact, South Africa ranks as all-time fourth in major tournament wins behind only the United States, Scotland and England.

Under a blue sky, and amid a scenic landscape, these young golfers are dreaming big. This amateur tournament is one of the most prestigious competitions in its category in the country. Winning it can be a big step toward a professional career.

South Africa has a long history of producing top golfers. South Africa Golf Association President Colin Burger offers a reason why.

"We can play all year around here, which is obviously an advantage for us. We can play 12 months of the year, so we can actually groom our juniors up until the seniors, and we can play a lot of tournaments all over the country in good weather conditions," said Burger.

South Africa also has programs to spot and develop young talent, regardless of social background. Here in Soweto, these youngsters have traded their soccer balls for golf clubs. The South Africa Golf Development Board offers programs across the country to teach children to play golf. Every day after school, they can come for free to perfect their swing with a coach.

Fifteen-year-old Percy has come for two years. "I like golf because it's fun to play, and it needs a lot of concentration, and that's what I have," he said.

When the children are good enough, they can practice at a regular golf course, and the best get to play in tournaments around the country. For the South Africa Golf Development Board, golf is more than a sport, said regional manager Andy Ostle.

"The game of golf is very similar to life itself. It teaches them etiquette, it teaches them values, it teaches them honesty. And the most important thing, it takes them off the streets. And [they're] doing something worthwhile that they can actually pursue once they become an adult,” said Ostle.

And there are benefits for those young players who do not become professionals.

β€œTo play golf, they also have to go to school, they have to pass their exams, and if they pass their exams, then there is a much better possibility to get a job. Especially in the golfing industry. In the golfing world, [golf] clubs,” said Ostle.

In the South Africa Golf Association, 25 percent of the players in the junior section turn pro after three years. The future of South African golf is already in good hands.