10 August 2020 – Sarah Braude took the helm at Womens Golf South Africa at the end of April, shortly after the South African government issued the Alert Level 5 hard lockdown due to the international Covid-19 pandemic.
In the ensuing months, Braude not only guided women’s amateur golf with great skill, but her expertise as an administrator and her experience as a town planner proved invaluable in GolfRSA’s successful bid to re-open golf at Alert Level 3.
Her passion to grow the game in South Africa is evidenced in the work she has done at grassroots level to help establish a vast golf development network across all 14 unions in the country and her desire to bring more women to the sport also led Braude to expand Womens Golf South Africa’s reach across the country’s borders into Africa.
Braude was recently named a finalist in the Woman of the Year category of the 2020 Momentum gsport Awards. We caught up with this industrious administrator to chat about the goals she has set for herself during her tenure as President of Womens Golf South Africa (WGSA).
First, tell us how you got into golf?
I played tennis and squash growing up, and was only introduced to golf much later in life by my husband.
Take us through your journey in golf administration and tell us what keeps driving you?
I first got involved with golf administration after we relocated to Cape Town from KwaZulu-Natal. I was elected as Lady Captain at Atlantic Beach Links in 2009 and I was subsequently elected to the former Womens Golf Western Province Executive in 2011.
I served for six years, including a term as President from 2014 – 2017 and before that I also worked as Tournament Administrator for Womens Golf South Africa. (Braude was also named a finalist in the Administrator of the Year category of the Western Cape Department of Sport, Culture & Arts Awards in this period).
In 2017, I was elected to the Vice-President position at WGSA and served with former President Sally Greasley for three years.
I became involved with administration because of my passion for golf development and my desire to give back to the game. In my youth, golf was not a sport that girls or women typically played. I have been very fortunate to be surrounded by equally committed women in these committees.
Being able to create opportunities to grow the game – in particular among young girls and mid-amateurs – meant that serving in administration was not a challenge, but rather an important step in the journey to grow and develop the game.
What are your key objectives for the future of women’s golf in South Africa?
I am very fortunate to follow in the footsteps of a dedicated and hard-working group of past presidents – including recent presidents Cynthia Rayner, Karen Olivant and Sally – who raised the profile of Womens Golf South Africa over the last decade. It is an honour and privilege to continue the trajectory they set for women’s amateur golf.
It is a big mandate and I am very aware of the challenges that lie ahead. I do not take the responsibility lightly, especially being elected into this position in the current economic climate.
My key objectives are as follows:
- Growing and transforming the game through increasing the participation of young females and women, whether they wish to play socially or competitively. Aligned with this it is vital that we continue to hear from those women playing the game and who are not members of clubs as to why they are not joining, and how we can bring them into the fold.
- Keeping the sport relevant and developing it as attractive to families so as to retain and grow membership, which is the backbone of the clubs.
- Continuing to build the platform of our National Squad structure for our top golfers to pursue their golfing aspirations, and the opportunities this presents for them.
- Increasing the opportunities for international competition and seeking innovative ways to attract international players to come to South Africa and compete.
- Unlocking opportunities for women to pursue careers in the golf industry especially in golf management, agronomy and streams where women have typically not pursued a career.
- Building on our blossoming relationship with our neighbouring countries and in the rest of Africa. We are fortunate in South Africa to have many resources compared to that offered to women golfers in other African countries, in particular in their junior programmes. So where we can share experiences with a common objective to grow the game in the continent, it can be mutually beneficial.
- To continue towards the practical amalgamation of women’s and men’s amateur golf in South Africa through our unified structure of GolfRSA, that was established by WGSA and the SAGA to take amateur golf forward.
- To ensure effective communication with our stakeholders, good corporate governance and ensure alignment with good global practice.
Sponsorship for women’s golf has never been an easy road, and now, with the economy severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, it is probably as tough as it’s ever going to get. How do you intend to source the much-needed sponsorship the women’s game needs to grow?
As with most amateur sports, securing sponsorship is a challenge, especially in women’s golf. However, there have been and still are some very dedicated partners – such as The Nomads Club of South Africa, Aon and Bridge Fund Managers – who have supported amateur golf in general and the development of amateur women’s golf.
The national sponsors are joined across the country by many other sponsors at our union championships and tournaments, while most clubs have been fortunate to secure local sponsors who support their Open days and club championships. Going forward, we hope that these partners will remain committed to sponsoring amateur golf.
There is a huge need for sponsorship, though, to continue to create platforms for growth and to provide a stage for our rising talent to perform and gain experience, as well as for our club golfers and our golf development nodes across the country.
The road ahead for securing sponsorship will be an increasing challenge in the current economic climate and innovative ways to secure sponsorships will be required. For example, as opposed to single sponsors, multiple sponsor partners may be one of the solutions.
Secondly, thinking out of the box and offering products within the tournament golf offering is definitely a consideration. Also, by growing the game from a family perspective, could further unlock a wider interest for sponsors.
With WGSA and the SAGA having formed the unified body of GolfRSA that includes the South African Golf Development Board and South African Disabled Golf Association, we can engage with the market under the banner of amateur golf in general.
We did this successfully with securing Aon as the sponsor for the SA Amateur Championships and it marked the first time in the history of amateur golf in South Africa where a sponsorship enabled the combined playing of the SA Women’s Amateur Stroke Play and Match Play championships and the men’s SA Amateur Championship earlier this year.
Globally, women’s golf has been exploding in the last few years. In your view, has any particular country made bigger strides than the others in growing the women’s game and how have they achieved this?
It is a fact that women’s golf has grown exponentially through programmes focussed on young females and women and families, however I believe our programme in South Africa is one of the success stories.
WGSA has over the last ten years, implemented a very successful development programme which has grown to 54 grassroots coaching nodes across the country. At these nodes, any young female wanting to learn the game can receive free coaching.
Some of these coaching nodes are run by unions and local PGA professionals, while others are run in a partnership between the unions and the South African Golf Development Board, golf clubs and / or schools.
These young women then have the opportunity to progress onto gaining a handicap and not only become good club golfers, but also have the chance to develop their dreams of representing their union or South Africa. Through this programme we also seek to educate these young ladies on the possibilities of working in the industry, be it in administration, golf club management, greenkeeping, catering, teaching and coaching – the possibilities are endless.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the enormous effort and hard work on the ground done by volunteers, administrators, coaches, clubs, amateur golf sponsors and partners, as well as the families, who contribute in so many ways in the collective goal of growing women’s golf. There is much more that needs to be done though, and certainly a key area of focus will be keeping the sport relevant and growing it as a game that the entire family can play.
You are a member of Atlantic Beach Links, but how often do you actually get out on the fairways?
It is a misconception that golf administrators play golf frequently and on many different courses! It is really not the case. I thoroughly enjoy the competitive side of the game and especially match play. If I am available and if my game is up to scratch, I do sometimes play league.
Any favourite courses, golfing memories and favourite golfers?
There are too many spectacular golf courses both in South African and across the world to pick a favourite, but I do enjoy links golf. I have many favourite moments, but on a personal level it’s probably my four holes-in-one.
My favourite female golfers are the legendary Annika Sorenstam and the current World No 1 Jin-Young Ko, as well as those South African professional women golfers who continue to blaze a trail for our amateurs aiming to follow in their footsteps. My top male golfers are Seve Ballesteros and Ernie Els. However, as in the women’s game, I foresee players being added to this list with the wealth of talent coming through the amateur ranks.