Mention the game of golf and people immediately think of big international stars and equally large sums of prize money. Rarely is the game associated with community development and fighting joblessness.
But for the people of the Waterberg region in Limpopo, golf is just a means towards fighting the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
For the fourth year in a row, the Limpopo Championship will be hosted at the Euphoria Golf & Lifestyle Estate on 31 March – 1 April 2022 but for the whole week of the golf tournament, men and women who’d ordinarily not have a cent to their name will be able to put food on the table for their families.
The area around the plush Euphoria Golf & Lifestyle Estate – and beyond – will come alive as homeowners rent out their properties to golfers and attendant visitors. There’s just a lot of economic activity that gains impetus during the week of the tourney as the influx of visitors opens doors for locals to make money.
Mayor of the Mookhophong Municipality, Marlene van Staden has not lost sight of the benefits the golf tournament brings to her small town formerly known as Naboomspruit.
“The Limpopo Championship has been a huge financial injection in our municipality over the past three years and we are looking forward to the fourth annual event at the end of March. The event itself creates no less than 85 temporary direct job opportunities but also indirect job opportunities at guest-houses and other accommodation facilities across the municipality.”
“For tourism, it is always difficult to measure the exact impact of the economies of scale but other local businesses like fuel stations, supermarkets, curio shops and restaurants, just to name a few, also have an increased number of customers and record a higher turnover during this time.”
“Over the long term, the publicity we get on television draws golfers to our area. Once they realise we are not a once-in-a-lifetime destination, but rather somewhere that they can regularly visit from Gauteng, we feel the positive impact.”
The Limpopo Championship is hosted by the Limpopo Tourism Agency (LTA), in conjunction with the Sunshine Tour. The chairman of the LTA, Andrew Dipela, is a Naboomspruit local who made his name as public relations officer and general manager at the National Soccer League and then the Premier Soccer League, respectively.
Dipela is passionate about the Limpopo Championship helping to fight poverty, unemployment and equality in their area and he insists on the local community members being considered first ahead of outsiders in terms of getting golf-related jobs during the tournament.
Over and above the huge prize-money – R3.5 million – Dipela also announced that they hope to raise R400 000 to pump into the provincial Premier’s Bursary Fund to assist needy pupils.
Dipela is also devoted to the caddie training programme, the cadets of which will be used throughout the seven golf courses in the region. A caddie can make up to 10% of the golfer’s winnings.
This was their way of creating jobs, Dipela says. Every little task that needs hands on the golf course during the tournament will be allocated to locals, he adds.
The accommodation establishments around here are full during the Limpopo Championship, Dipela says. Even a local chisa-nyama made good business last year, Dipela says.
Valerie Gwasira is general manager of the 100% black-owned Euphoria Golf & Lifestyle Estate. She says they employ 80 staff members “20 in golf operations and the rest run the hotel”.
“Every year we bring in more hands; 85 people in 2021. The proceeds from the golf tournament assist us in paying the salaries of the extra hands we bring in. You can never get accommodation in Mookgophong during the week of the tournament.”
“In 2022, the fourth year of the tournament we want to cement ourselves as a go-to golfing destination,”Gwasira says.
So whoever said golf was not a sport but business was correct. The people of Mookgophong and Modimolle certainly agree.