October 2020 – Filip Sakota takes center stage this October as we continue our Rising Star series.
This ERPM Golf Club standout was honoured as Ekurhuleni Golf Unions’ Under-15 Player of the Year in 2019 and in June, the talented 15-year-old was selected to the GolfRSA National Squad.
We caught up with Filip during lockdown and discovered he is not only a whiz with his golf clubs, but also an avid reader with a love for mathematics, a rather decent baker and an Opera buff to boot!
BORN: Johannesburg South Africa
BIRTHDATE: 9 May 2005
GOLF CLUB & UNION: ERPM Golf Club and Ekurhuleni Golf Union
3rd: 2020 U-19 Invitational Challenge (EGU Junior circuit)
Runner-up: 2020 Emfuleni CGGU Junior 18 Holes (CGGU Junior circuit)
Winner: 2019 EGU Junior at Avion Park Golf Club (EGU Junior circuit)
Runner-up: 2019 Royal Oak Pro-Shop Open (EGU Junior circuit)
3rd: 2019 EGU Junior at Lake Club Benoni (EGU Junior circuit)
2019 Ekurhuleni U-15 Player of the Year
Selected to represent Ekurhuleni in the 2020 SA U-19 Inter-Provincial
I also began testing the water on the Open Amateur circuit last year at the age of 14. I was really proud to make 3 cuts in the 4 events I entered, including the Ekurhuleni Open, Free State Open, and the Bobby Locke Invitational, where I finished 2nd.
Q – Tell us where and when your love affair with golf started?
FS – My dad bought me my first set of plastic clubs when I was three years old. Every weekend I would accompany him to the course. One day we were driving a golf cart and I tumbled out onto the soft, lush fairway at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club. My dad was horrified, but I got up laughing, ran to my ball, chipped it on the green and shouted “Get in the hole!” I think it was obvious from this incident that golf would become a large part of my life. I started with formal golf lessons at the age of six and the rest, as they say, is history.
Q – Are you the sort of golfer who sets yearly goals? If so, what goals have you set for yourself for next season?
FS – Yes I set yearly goals. For the upcoming 2021 season my goal is to earn national colours and compete in international events. I would love to win the Nomads Under-17 SA Boys Championship. I was selected to represent Ekurhuleni at the SA Under-19 Inter-Provincial, which unfortunately was cancelled due to the lockdown this year. I hope to make the team again in 2021.
Q – How tough has the transition been from the provincial junior circuit to the GolfRSA National Junior circuit? What events do you intend to compete in next year and are you contemplating playing the Open Amateur circuit, too?
FS – I began making the transition from the provincial junior circuit to the GolfRSA National Junior circuit in 2018. My first event was the Dimension Data Junior Open U-15 Challenge at Fancourt, where I tied for 7th. I found the transition quite easy and following a season on the national circuit, I decided to play my first amateur tournament in October 2019, where I made the cut. I played three more and made two more cuts. So in 2021, I plan to play the Nomads Inland and Coastal National Order of Merit events, the Nomads SA Boys events and some Open Amateur events to build experience.
Q – Talk to us about the strengths of your game and what are the weaknesses or aspects of the game you still need to attend to.
FS – My short game is my strength and I am a great putter and bunker player, and this helps me to keep my scores low. I am also physically fit and mentally strong. One of my weaknesses is my greens in regulation statistics. I am still struggling with precision distance control, due to a rapid growth spurt and increased strength. I know I just need to be patient and keep working at it and it will no longer be a weakness.
Q – You were selected for the GolfRSA National Squad this year. How do you feel about making the cut?
FS – When I received the call, it felt surreal. It has been my ambition for many years to be selected for the GolfRSA National Squad. It is such an honour and I am immensely grateful to the GolfRSA Selection Committee. I will do my utmost to fly the GolfRSA flag high locally and internationally. A special thank you to Mr. Rupert for all that he has done for South African Golf, in particular launching the GolfRSA National Squad.
Q – How did you keep your game in form during the countrywide Covid-19 lockdown?
FS – Initially I was extremely disappointed in not being allowed out on the golf course to practice. I live in an apartment without a garden, so I had to become creative. I performed thousands of golf swings on a mat in my living room hitting into a curtain.
I did a lot of physical exercise, conditioning, and stretching to ensure that I maintained my fitness level and I putted on a mat to maintain my stroke. However, I really missed the golf course every day and with every week that passed. I had to remind myself to stay patient.
I completed as much school work as I possibly could, so that when the courses did re-open, I wouldn’t have to remain inside. When the announcement came that we were allowed back outside on the courses, I was overjoyed. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in making this possible. The positives that I take away from this time of Covid is that I have become mentally stronger and that adapted well to different circumstances.
Q – Although the national events have been cancelled for the season, amateurs are able to compete at provincial level. How has that been going?
FS – It has been a bumpy start, but I have been able to turn it around. My game is starting to look promising and gaining some form. I can’t wait to play my next tournament and continue to get better.
Q – What’s your favourite club in your bag?
FS – I have two favourites – the driver and the putter.
Q – Which are your favourite golf courses and which golf courses would you still love to play?
FS – I would really love to play the prestigious Leopard Creek, here in South Africa, Pebble Beach in USA and Circolo Golf `Villa d’Este in Italy. My favourite course, which I have played, is The Grand Coral Golf Riviera Maya in Mexico.
Q – Who would you like to play with in your own Fantasy Fourball?
FS – My fantasy 4 ball would be Jack Nicklaus because of his great mental game, Phil Mickelson so we can have a short game competition, and Gary Player, so I can tap into his wisdom on how he maintains his health and fitness at age 84.
Q – Any hole-in-ones?
FS – I have been very close to getting a hole in one and when I say close I mean extremely close. I have had a lip out and hit the flagsticks many times. One day I will get it, because “the more you practice the luckier you get”.
Q – What is the best piece of golfing advice you have ever received?
FS – Play with your natural tendencies and to the best of your ability. Also “if you can’t hit driver, don’t”. Make the game as easy as you can for yourself. Limit damage when you are playing and when an error occurs, don’t compound it!
Q – Which tournaments would you most like to win and why?
FS – Firstly, I would want to win the necessary amateur tournaments in South Africa and abroad to become the world number 1 amateur. Following this, I want to turn professional and gain the necessary experience to move on. My dream is to win all 4 Majors, the Fedex Cup and Race to Dubai.
Q – What advice would you give youngsters just starting in the game?
FS – Initially just enjoy it. Go to the range, play a few rounds, go for some golf lessons and give your full attention to the fundamentals and basics of Golf. Learn your rules about the game and how you must present yourself with manners and etiquette.
Q – Tell us 5 things about yourself most people don’t know
I enjoy reading
I love baking
I am an early riser
I enjoy the Opera
I jumped a grade at school
Q – If you had to pick up one animal to describe you, what would it be and why?
FS – A black stallion, a; it’s strong and fast and my favourite animal.
Q – Describe the best meal you’ve had while on the road and where you had it.
FS – Mexican homemade Tacos, which I ate in Tulum Mexico. Street food and delicious!!
Q – What is your favourite season and why?
FS – I love summer, because the golf courses are lush due to the rain here in Gauteng. The higher temperatures are also ideal to play golf.
Q – Is there anything you are addicted to or can’t live without?
FS – I can never say no to a slice of freshly baked bread with melted butter.
Q – Tell us about something you hate doing and why?
FS – I hate going to the orthodontist as I know my teeth will hurt after. I have had braces now for 2 years and can’t wait to get them off!
Q – As a child, what did you wish to become when you grew up?
FS – I wanted to be a superhero. My favourite was the Hulk, a clever scientist with muscles and he gets to go to space.
Q – Describe yourself in one word.
FS – Dedicated
Q – What movie can you watch again and again and why?
FS – Pirates of the Caribbean. I’ve read all the books and I enjoy the acting and the stunts in the movies.
Q – Tell us about three things you consider yourself to be really good at.
FS – Mathematics, travelling, and other sports
Q – What three things would you want to have on a deserted island and why?
FS – I would want a book to read to pass the time. A set of golf clubs to practice and improve my game until someone found me. And fireworks to alert passing ships to rescue me.
Q – If golf wasn’t an option, what profession would you pursue and why?
FS – I hope to study and play golf whilst at university one day. I dream of getting a degree that will help to propel me in life. I would pursue one of the following professions – an actuarial scientist due to my love for mathematics or an astronaut, to explore space and to help humankind to advance.
Q – If they made a movie about your life, which actor would you pick to play you and why?
FS – Johnny Depp. He is my favourite actor and I am positive he would be able to portray me and my interesting life.
Q – What are your biggest fears?
FS – Scorpions!! I once found one in my bed in Namibia – luckily I hadn’t shared my bed with it, yet.
Q – If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would it be and why?
FS – Elon Musk and Elvis Presley – both legends.
Q – If you could meet and have lunch with anyone in the world (real, fictitious, from any time period, dead or alive) who would you choose?
FS – Luciano Pavarotti! I was too young to appreciate him when he was still performing live, but what an amazing person. And, being of Italian decent, I love opera and pasta.
Q – Any superstitions? (not just on the golf course!)
FS – No, I don’t believe in superstitions
Q – What is your guilty pleasure?
FS – Ice cream for breakfast
Q – Words to live by….
FS – “First to arrive and last to leave”.
Q – If we gave you a free plane ticket anywhere, where would you go and why?
FS – China! I have never been, and I would love to go there. I have read about the Great Wall of China and their culture… it’s so interesting and I also enjoy Chinese food.
Q – I’m not embarrassed to say that ……
FS – I have highlighted my hair before.
Q – What is your favourite quote from a movie or a person?
FS – Leonardo DiCaprio from the movie The Revenant: “As long as you can still grab a breath, you fight. You breathe…keep breathing”
Q – What is still on the bucket list for Filip Sakota?
The Pyramids in Egypt
Japan in Cherry Blossom season
St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia in Red Square
To make a hole-in-one and an albatross
And to meet Bryson James Aldrich DeChambeau