An Open Letter to the City of Tshwane about Women’s Golf

An Open Letter to the Honourable Mayor of the City of Tshwane regarding Golf Events

I refer to the article in the Sunday Times dated 21 August, Tshwane’s mayor to tackle skeleton:

‘Solly Msimanga , The DA’s newly elected mayor in Tshwane, aims to rid the administrative capital of “vanity projects “and review the metro’s organogram with a view to trim the fat. The Tshwane Open golf tournament which costs the metro R40 million to host, will be first on the chopping block’.

The debate of how much money is awarded towards men’s golf ,particularly in South Africa, has shown very little return for the city’s involved and with little if not any transparency in the process of awarding contracts to the companies who would form part of the event. Less is said about community organisations who should be the first to benefit from any sporting event; especially with it being the culture of golf, corporate and community organisations sharing the spoils.

In the same breathe allocations of the monies earned being directed back into development golf and particularly women’s golf. The stats show the disparity between men’s and women’s golf in SA as being chalk and cheese. Male golfers total earnings are R32 775 000 for 2015/16 and women’s R2 800 000. With that being said, men enjoy up to 22 sunshine tour events per year and women only 9 tournaments. For ladies, this works out to about three months of competitive golf, and the rest of the year it’s basically scrapping together to get to tournaments abroad or coaching to pay bills.

This leaves one to ask several questions: why is there a massive gap in earnings when tennis and other sports show very little discrimination in earnings between male and female athletes? Is women’s golf not one of the priorities in South Africa when globally it’s like a Tsunami hitting the golfing world? Is there not enough corporate interest as is the case globally, particularly as we see the dominance of Asian women golfers on the LPGA tour? Is there no case for live broadcasting of women’s golf as is the case with the LPGA and the Ladies European tour which features regular coverage on national and paid TV? Is there not enough talent on the SA ladies tour that will attract public viewing and support as what we just witnessed at the Olympics 2016?

These are some of the points UniMedia Pro are addressing and in collaboration with many of South Africa’s female leaders in sport and in particular Sally Little, who is SA’s most decorated sport’s personality and is driving home her agenda to find the next Sally Little. We are definitely not lacking in talent and enthusiasm as currently we have 95 plus active professional players on the Ladies Sunshine Tour alone.

In the South African men’s golfing camp we have the likes of Gary Player, Ernie Els, Louis Oosthuizen and more as celebrated South African champions and to alert the world of the golfing greats being churned out on African soil. Where are the women to fill these shoes? With more than 440 plush golf courses countrywide, how can we collectively exploit opportunities in job creation, sports tourism and harnessing in on the power of sports women both in media and business?

Through the PinkStig Invitational, Unimedia together with its partners has undertaken to redress the issues at hand as stated in this letter and to bridge the gap economically and socially. Our vision, with our PinkStig initiative is to celebrate leading young aspiring female golfers, in both playing the game and inspiring other young female golfer amateurs to become professionals.

So Honourable Mayor; to get back to your question of how R 40 million is being spent on a ‘vanity sport’ such as golf, which we believe that this R 40 million could rather be invested into Women’s golf by:

  • A series of tournaments for women’s golf such as our upcoming PinkStig Invitational on the 28th of November 2016, Sun City
  • To use the cities as hosts and attach with it the element of local and international tourism
  • To invite more international players to participate in tours to create a more competitive environment, thus preparing our pro players for international tournaments.

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Maria Verchenova’s Hole in One like a Tsunami

In Saturday’s final round of the Olympic Women’s Golf Competition, Verchenova shot 62, advancing on the mark established by Marcus Fraser and Matt Kuchar in the men’s competition and equaled by Stacy Lewis on Friday. Making Verchenova’s magical round even more incredible is the fact that it included a hole-in-one on the Rio Olympic Course’s fourth hole.

Maria Verchenova is a two-time Russian amateur champ and was the first Russian to become a full-time member of the Ladies European Tour. She is currently ranked No. 348 in the Rolex Ranking. The Ladies European Tour pro from Moscow was the lone Russian golfer to qualify for the Olympics, but her eligibility was put in doubt after the World Anti-Doping Agency recommended a blanket ban on all Russian athletes following the discovery of Russia’s state-sanctioned doping operation.

A least 119 Russian athletes were banned from the Rio Games, including the entire weightlifting team and all but a single member of the track and field team. According to IGF vice president Ty Votaw, “the IOC notified the IGF and Russian Olympic Committee that Ms. Maria Verchenova’s entry to the women’s individual golf event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games was confirmed.”
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Against all the challenges with the Russian athletes, Maria Verchenova made a life time impression on the world of sport, as she has now become the center of all conversation around women’s athleticism and their ability to excel under the most extreme circumstances. Gary Player said: “Women’s golf is like a Tsunami coming” did he mean like the story surrounding Maria Verchenova, who in one day turned the whole sporting world upside down. Women in sport in general are fast becoming a reality that cannot be given second attention, but priority.

 

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INTO THE LOOKING GLASS WITH LEJAN LEWTHWAITE

She is blonde, beautiful and bountifully talented. Even beating all her Female Pro Golfer colleagues at the recent Little Pace Challenge! I took some time to sit down with Lejan to gain an understanding of her loves and long terms goals.

Now Lejan, your story is very similar to Sally’s in the sense that you both are from South Africa, travelled to America and honed your golfing skills internationally, and now you have returned to your home with this new level of play?

I definitely think that my time in America has helped my game. The biggest aspect has been experience. I got to play amongst some of the world’s top amateur golfers in university, as well as play on some of America’s great golf courses.

LejanLewthwaite

What are the greatest differences between the game in the US versus here in SA?

I would say one the biggest differences between the USA and RSA was that at university a golfer is very much seen as an athlete. Therefore our fitness training was very regimental and intense – one of the reasons being that tournaments often included 36 holes per day, played without caddies. I leant to play on many different types of courses and a lot of adverse weather conditions, competing against other international players of a high standard.

Golf has not been your only love for a while you actually were very involved with sailing. What are the similarities between the two and why did golf win in the end?

Indeed, I played many sports during school including tennis, hockey, and sailing at provincial level. In fact I still play hockey at club level to keep up fitness. Sailing was however my first passion, I started when I was 9 years old. My dad got me sailing when he used to take me out on his boat on the local dam down the road from where we lived. I competed for South Africa at the European Optimist Sailing Championships in Poland when I was 14. Sailing most definitely shaped me into the person I am today. A lot of the characteristics like discipline, dedication and hard work learnt at such a young age definitely benefit my game and goal of reaching the top.

Lejan PinkStigWhen you are sailing, you are alone in your boat, no one to help or assist you. You have to make your own tactical decisions and you have to have stamina. When you are sailing out on the ocean, you go into survival mode, which meant me being determined, focused, and believing that I was strong enough to battle the testing conditions. It is much the same in golf. A lot of decisions are tactical ones, how will I get the ball in the hole with the least amount of shots but with the least amount of risk? I am the one that makes the final decision of what club to use, what shot to hit, and what line to pick. And finally, even if I’m having a bad day on the course, you have to fight to the end, it’s the same in sailing, it’s not over until you cross the finish line.

So having studied health and fitness, which you actually completed at Texas State University, does that give you an edge in the game of golf?

It actually wasn’t until I turned 17 years old that I decided to take golf seriously and began coaching. Obtaining a degree in Health and Fitness Management has definitely given me an edge in my golf game. I learnt a lot about fitness, what to do and not to do in terms of training. My physical training is golf specific, and with this knew found knowledge I have been able to apply a lot of what I learnt to my game, not only physically but mentally and technically.

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Having won the 2015 Jackie Mercer Trophy in the SA Women’s Open on the Hibiscus Coast, what do you think your chances are for today? Are you feeling strong?

Winning the Jackie Mercer trophy at the SA Open was such a highlight – giving me confidence and belief that the sky is the limit.  Every time I tee it up in a tournament, there is a belief that I can win. My game has come a long way since last year’s Open, so feeling even stronger and looking forward to European “Q” school as well as the next SA Open later in the year!

Be sure to follow all of Lejan’s progress on social media:

Twitter – @UniMediaPro

Mikaela Oosthuizen

Instagram – @mikaelaoosthuizen

Twitter – @smilemikaela

 

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