When Jean Hugo recently won a record 10th Vodacom Origins of Golf presented by Samsung title on the Sunshine Tour, one of the first to congratulate him was his good friend and fellow
professional Chris Swanepoel.

While he doesn’t get the publicity some of the bigger-name South African golfers get, Hugo is one of the most successful golfers in the history of the Sunshine Tour with 16 career titles. After his recent win, Hugo spoke of being 39 years old and now playing the game with a different mindset.

“The events I won eight to 10 years ago, it just felt like you played and they happened. Now it feels like you have to make it happen. Obviously we’re all getting older and it’s just one of those things. You tend to look into the future much more rather than just staying in the present and playing the shots that you can. I’m a lot more conservative on the golf course now. I’d rather not lose a tournament by trying for that one great shot that doesn’t come off,” said Hugo, alluding to how he now focuses on the early detection of trouble on the golf course and avoiding this rather than the great shot he wants to play.

It’s a common theme in South African golf at present, but for different reasons. “Early Detection” is also the theme of this year’s Sanlam Cancer Challenge, which sees South Africa’s golfers all support a massive annual charity drive to help raise funds for the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) through a myriad of club competitions and local auctions of golf memorabilia. And for Hugo’s friend Chris Swanepoel, “early detection” will forever resonate in terms of the cancer that has plagued his family.

Swanepoel’s father was diagnosed with cancer in 1992.

“I was eight years old at the time, and I have two twin sisters who are 16 months younger than me. I remember the doctor gave him six months to live. I tell you, we just prayed. As a kid I remember pleading with God not to take my father as we were all still so young,” he says.

“We’ve had a lot of cancer in our family. My aunt, uncle and cousin had cancer, and my grandmothter died of cancer. I honestly believe that if it’s your time it’s your time. But I’ve learnt to live life to the full and take it day by day.” Hugo says he’s now trying to do the same on the golf course.

“It’s a different ballgame for me these days. You’ve got to have so much faith in what you’re doing and your ability because a lot of young guys are coming through. But it’s something I need to work on. At this stage of my career I’m trying to eliminate all those other thoughts and just focus on the next shot in front of me.”