All-Africa champions elated and humbled

All Africa Golf Team Championship
The victorious South African team during the eighth All Africa Golf Teams Championship prize giving at Elephant Hills Resort in Zimbabwe; credit GolfRSA. From Left to Right: Clayton Mansfield, Matt Saulez, Garrick Higgo, Malcolm Mitchell, team manager Naadir Agherdien (South African Golf Association Vice-President), Nancy Sakala (Customer Relationship Manager: FBC Bank), Clement Mukwasi (Commissioner: Zimbabwe Sports Ministry) and Ambassabor Joe Malanji (Africa Golf Confederation President).

KwaZulu-Natal trio Malcolm Mitchell, Clayton Mansfield and Matt Saulez and Garrick Higgo from Boland successfully defended South Africa’s title in the All Africa Golf Team Championship last Friday, but the quartet left in Zimbabwe with much more than a trophy.

The team headed into the final round at Elephant Hills Golf Club with a 22 shot lead and posted a team total of 209 to win the title for an eighth successive time by 30 strokes on 845.

Mitchell also won the Individual Competition on 12-under-par 276 with rounds of 67, 68, 73 and 68, while Higgo, Mansfield and Saulez finished fourth, fifth and eighth respectively.

Mitchell described the event as a real eye-opener:

“It was the first time Matt and I wore the green and gold outside South Africa’s borders and the first time Garrick and Clayton played for South Africa as seniors,” Mitchell said. “We were obviously keen to continue South Africa’s proud record and we were elated with the result, but on the trip home this past weekend we reflected on just how privileged we are as South Africans.

“We are incredibly well looked after by the South African Golf Association and GolfRSA – from our kit to our travel arrangements to our events back home. We have some of the best golf courses in the world, we get incredible opportunities to advance and we have a strong national amateur circuit.

“We met players that don’t have access to any of those things. Some countries only have one or two championship courses; other countries have to raise sponsorship for kit and funds to travel to compete in events. Yet, all the teams had the same fire in their belly, so proud to represent their countries, despite the shortcomings, and that was humbling for us.

“We want to congratulate all the teams who competed. In our eyes, you are all winners. Well done to the Zimbabwe Golf Association for putting on a fantastic event. It was a great tournament and an absolute treat to stay at the first class accommodation at Elephant Hills Resort.

“A special word of thanks to the green staff at Elephant Hills. Despite dealing with warthogs that constantly dig up the greens and fairways and waterbuck that roam the course, they did an amazing job to prepare the course for the championship.

“The team would also like to thank our manager Naadir Agherdien and his wife Yumna, who looked after all our needs and gave us unbelievable support throughout.”

Saulez, who will be travelling with Mitchell to Argentina in November to represent South Africa in the Juan Carlos Tailhade Cup and the Argentine Amateur Open, added that competing against the other African nations put things into a different perspective for the team.

“Like Malcolm said, I don’t think any of us realised just how privileged we are until it stared us right in the face,” he said. “I think that is why we all enjoyed hosting a golf development clinic for little juniors from a nearby school. It was an hour out of our lives, and a small thing really when you think about it, but to see the excitement on their faces was humbling. It was incredibly gratifying to teach them and to give back, even just a little, to the game that gives us so much.”

Article By: Lali Stander