Amateur golf in South Africa set to break new ground

The South African Golf Association (SAGA) and Womens Golf South Africa (WGSA) are delighted to announce the launch of Golf RSA and the appointment of current South African Golf Development Board CEO, Grant Hepburn, at its helm.

“As the governing bodies of amateur golf in the Republic of South Africa, SAGA and WGSA have agreed to unify and reorganise their operations under one umbrella,” explained SAGA president Gerhard Conradie.

“We believe the amalgamation under Golf RSA is in the best interest of furthering the sport and to ensure its future within the socio-economic, legal and political environments of this country.

“The respective national executive committees will continue to set the strategy and policies and the existent democratic structures of both organizations will remain intact, however Golf RSA will implement and perform the combined operations.”

Conradie confirmed that the South African Disabled Golf Association (SADGA), which is affiliated to SAGA, will join the unified operations.

“Golf RSA will be governed by a board of directors comprising senior representatives of SAGA, WGSA and SADGA, as well as several high profile, independent non-executive golf personalities who shall provide corporate governance and proper oversight of the operation of the not-for-profit company,” Conradie said.

“We are excited to welcome Grant in the role of CEO at Golf RSA. We believe his passion, energy, determination and personality is perfectly suited to drive the unification process.”

WGSA president Karen Olivant also welcomed the launch of Golf RSA as a positive step that will change the face of amateur golf in South Africa.

“We are delighted to join forces with SAGA and SAGDA as Golf RSA,” Olivant said. “We will continue to operate and run our tournaments at a very high standard, however, we believe a cohesive, integrated approach will yield the most effective results for the future of amateur golf.

“By presenting a single, unified front of all aspects of amateur golf in this country, we can proactively grow and promote amateur golf at all levels.

“We welcome Grant’s appointment and wish him well as he sets us on a new course for the future.”

Sunshine Tour chairman Johann Rupert applauded the launch of Golf SA and Hepburn’s appointment.

“The formation of Golf RSA is a remarkable achievement – congratulations to all involved,” Rupert said.

“Golf RSA will provide a healthy platform from which to move golf forward throughout South Africa.

“Having known Grant for nearly twenty years since we first met at 1995 Open Championship at St Andrews, I was very pleased that SAGA approached him to be the first CEO. Grant has done a remarkable job as the leader of the SAGDB, and we wish him all the best.

“Nowadays we all read about one scandal after another involving the various administrators of nearly every sporting code. It is comforting that golf, not only in South Africa but across the world, has the services of good men and women who are willing to serve the wonderful game that we all love so much.”

Chief executive Selwyn Nathan also congratulated SAGA and WGSA on the Golf RSA initiative and welcomed Hepburn to the fold.

“We believe our amateurs are among our most valuable investments and we are confident that they will reap tremendous value from Golf RSA,” Nathan said.

“Golf RSA will enable South African amateur golf to expand its brand presence both locally and internationally. The collaboration will introduce operational and cost efficiencies by leveraging shared expertise, resources and infrastructure across the three functional operations in amateur golf (SAGA, WGSA and SADGA).

“We enjoy a tremendous relationship with all three organisations and share a commitment to teamwork and helping our local talent to achieve their full potential. I have personally known Grant for more than a decade and enjoyed a close working relationship with him at the SAGDB.

“Grant is a new generation golf administrator that will lead amateur golf to new heights and continue to create a positive and long lasting legacy for golf in South Africa.”

Hepburn, who has established golf academies in Europe and the United Kingdom and has his own academy, the Southern African Golf Institute, based at the River Club in Cape Town, began his career as Robert Baker’s assistant coach on the PGA Tour 20 years ago.

He has a proven track record in both amateur and professional golf circles, has coached champions on the PGA Tour, European Tour, Asian Tour and the Sunshine Tour, and works with many of the country’s top amateurs.

For many years, the renowned PGA professional has been a monthly contributor of instruction tips to the Compleat Golfer Magazine and frequently lectures in Long Term Athlete Development and Advanced Golf Coaching. He was also instrumental in helping the PGA formulate the Grow Golf Coaches Program that trains dozens of school teachers and development coaches around the country to be proficient in the basics of golf coaching.

In 1999, Hepburn joined the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) as its national coaching consultant and has trained more than 80 coaches during his tenure.

He has excelled in his capacity as the CEO since 2013, taking the organisation from a development initiative with projects in seven golf unions to nation-wide program that is now active in all 14 golf unions around South Africa.

Following a R10-million donation from businessman Johann Rupert to finance a national squad programme earlier this year, Hepburn will also be highly instrumental in the selection, development and management of South African National Squad.

“I am extremely honoured to have been considered for the position of CEO for Golf RSA,” Hepburn said.

“SAGA and WGSA have a long standing tradition of being loyal servants and governing bodies of South African golf. There are thousands of people over the years who have given their time and expertise voluntarily and that have played a massive role in governing the game and preserving the values that are inherent in golf.

“I must acknowledge the hard work that the president Gerhard Conradie and office bearers Geoff Taylor and Naadir Agherdien have put in behind the scenes to bring Golf RSA to fruition.

“I aim to continue their good work and will strive to add value through the new structures of Golf RSA. South Africa has a proud history of success as a golfing nation and I couldn’t be prouder to play a role in taking Golf RSA forward.

“I would like to take this opportunity to give thanks to the mentors who have shaped my career. My parents, who lead by example of integrity and empathy. Robert Baker, who gave me a fantastic opportunity. Selwyn Nathan, who has been a great friend and mentor and Johann and Gaynor Rupert, who have played an incredible role in my life since we first met in 1995.

“I hope to repay the faith that everyone has shown in me and justify the confidence that the union presidents have put in me by making a positive difference in my role within Golf RSA.

“It is vital to grow the game of golf, to serve the golfers at club level and to facilitate the different golfing bodies in their commitment to work together as a unified body under Golf RSA.

“This appointment is undoubtedly a major highlight in my career and I feel privileged to be given such a wonderful opportunity and challenge.”

Hepburn will take office on 1 June 2015.

Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the South African Golf Association and Womens Golf South Africa.

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