Golf | 15 Feb 2018 | By Michael Vlismas

A Good Move for SA Golf

Thomas Abt (right) congratulates Jean Hugo following his victory on the Vodacom Origins of Golf series on the Sunshine Tour.

A few years ago, I nearly froze to death on a putting green in Bloemfontein.

It was mid winter and during a Vodacom Origins of Golf tournament on the Sunshine Tour. It was evening and I was involved in an epic putting competition with some Tour officials and friends. It was well worth freezing to death for.

The next morning, the first round of the tournament was delayed because the early start combined with the kind of low temperatures not even explorer Mike Horn would go out in meant the first few greens had ice on them, making them only marginally slower to putt on than Augusta National.

So Thomas Abt, the promoter of the Vodacom Origins of Golf series, arranged with the golf club that they phone the local cricket grounds in town (including even schools) and ask if they could loan their groundcovers.

Later the day, a bakkie arrived loaded with several groundcovers. And that afternoon, I joined with Abt and Tour staff as we pulled the covers over the first few greens at Bloemfontein Golf Club to keep them ice-free for the evening.

It worked brilliantly.

It’s a small example of the kind of person that Selwyn Nathan identified and has groomed to follow him in the role of Commissioner (As a result of Abt’s appointment, Nathan will no longer be known as the Executive Director of the Tour but rather the Commissioner).

Under the leadership of Nathan, Abt has been groomed for a role that he is perfectly suited for. Apart from a brief stint as a professional volleyball player for which we forgive him, he has always been passionate about professional golf. Most importantly, he has the respect of the major tours, Sunshine Tour sponsors and players.

Nathan has served South African golf for almost 50 years. His influence is immense. Only he could get the PGA Tour to travel all the way to Soweto Country Club, stick a spade in the ground and then help pay for this revitalisation project.

Finding the right person to eventually succeed him was not only a priority, but also a question of maintaining the strong sense of stability and strength of the Sunshine Tour as one of South African sport’s best run organisations.

The feeling, from Nathan himself to the Sunshine Tour Board of Directors and even the Player’s Committee, is that Abt is the right man for this job. He has the experience, and he has an innovator’s mind when it comes to tournament golf.

In this new role, he will certainly be good for golf, because he knows how to work well with all of the good in South African golf.

The greatest strength South African golf has is the unity amongst its leading officials to work together for the game.

It’s this strength in structure that allows the country to keep producing world champions.