In her autobiography “Capturing the Fire,” Sally Little is fully cognisant of the fact that it is not just women who have suffered due to discrimination within golfing circles. She makes special reference to Sewsunker “Papwa” Sewgolum as a player whose promise was oppressed. In 1963 as a golf tournament winner, he had to stand outside in the rain to receive his trophy and his winner’s cheque. He was not allowed in the clubhouse where the rest of the tournament golfers were seated for the ceremony as he was not white and it would’ve been a violation of Apartheid Laws to have allowed him into the clubhouse.
She further highlights how such discrimination can stifle a blossoming career whose only lack is not in amounts of talents, which he had in abundance, but a lack of support and financial backing. Papwa became the first man of colour to win a significant tournament in Europe when he won the Dutch Open. Proving that this was no lucky streak, he won the same tournament in 1960. He did not have the funds to participate in the next three Dutch Opens, but when he managed to return again in 1964, he took the title for a third time. His success undermined the very philosophy of Apartheid based on the superiority of the white ‘race’. So in 1966 the government banned Papwa from ‘white’ tournaments and revoked his passport making it impossible for him to play in international events or from leaving the country. Papwa’s health and career were never quite the same after that. He passed away in 1978 at the age of 48, poor and heartbroken from the downward spiral his career had taken.
Sally notes how this tragic tale has many faces, where individuals with talent are restricted due to prejudice towards their inability to conform to prescribed historical golfing norms, has had the greatest negative impact on the advancement of the game itself. If players, like Sally do not ascribe to the the epitome of a “traditional golfer” – think checkered socks, white pipe pants and most importantly, white male – then their participation in the game is not valued. The result is that the game of golf suffers the most from not having had the chance to develop from talented individuals such as these. Only in changing the stigma of golf, can true talent be unearthed and promoted, no matter the colour of the petals it blooms.