Golf | 21 Aug 2018 | By Michael Vlismas

In praise of the Ordinary South African

I listened to a podcast recently with Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, the founder of Gift of the Givers. He spoke about the R2.3 billion in funding his organisation has received to do its important work around the world, and he made the point that this funding is “99.9% from ordinary South Africans”.

“South Africans are the most generous nation in the world,” he added.

This week, yet another group of ordinary South Africans proved his point.

On Saturday evening, vandals dug up six of the greens at the Wild Coast Sun Country Club. There were no witnesses to the incident and an investigation is ongoing into what may have sparked this. The greater issue was that a Sunshine Tour event – the R800 000 Wild Coast Sun Challenge, which forms part of the Sun International Challenge Series on the Tour – was set to tee off four days later on this golf course.

Not only were there professionals relying on the golf course being ready for them to be able to earn a living, but so too their caddies, including those who climb in taxis and travel long distances to get to these tournaments, as well as the women from the local communities who caddie on this golf course and have always been such a unique feature of golf tournaments held here.

On the Sunday after the incident, a few professionals who arrived early to prepare for the tournament discovered the extensive damage done to greens 12 to 17. They spread the word via social media. And the ordinary South African responded.

“People just started arriving to help,” says Sandi Burger, the Public Relations and Promotions Manager of the Wild Coast Sun Hotel and Casino.

“Greenkeepers from other local golf courses arrived to help us. Farmers arrived to help. Even some of the professionals helped. They just turned up and started helping to repair the greens."

“We had golf courses phoning us from Johannesburg saying they would host golf days to help raise money for the repairs. Durban Country Club offered to do the same. But we even had phone calls from as far as England where people were saying how much they love the golf course and what a shame something like this happened. It’s been phenomenal.”

The result has been that the Sunshine Tour event will go ahead as planned.

“When you look at the photos of the original damage, and then you see the change from all the help we received, you almost cannot believe it.”

You see, as we have seen so many times in this country, ordinary South Africans don’t wait around to debate what happened and why. They act. They get stuck in. They sacrifice. They help. It is ordinary South Africans who move this country forward, every single day.

When they are told the country’s water is running out, it is ordinary South Africans who turn off their taps and start saving immediately. Cape Town’s residents halved their water consumption, and they did in three years (from when drought status was declared in 2015) what, according to the International Water Association, it took Melbourne’s residents 12 years to accomplish when faced with a similar drought.

Ordinary South Africans give when they don’t even have for themselves. As Dr Sooliman pointed out in his interview, in 2011 a school in Orange Farm where “the kids don’t have shoes, they don’t have lunch, they don’t have a jersey in winter” donated R41 000 to the Gift of the Givers’ famine relief effort in Somalia.

“It restores your faith in humanity,” says Burger. “You know, it makes you think back to the old days when you looked out for your neighbour. That neighbourly love.”

This week was meant to be just another professional golf tournament on the Sunshine Tour. An ordinary week on Tour.

Until ordinary South Africans turned it into something quite extraordinary.