Buffalo City golfers leading the way

Compared with the men's game, women's golf still lacks support, but the Duma sisters and Zethu Myeki may just be the ones to change all that and become pioneers among black female players.

Siviwe and Yolanda Duma are no strangers to South African golf circles, but this hasn't spared them from feeling ignored in a sport they grew up loving from the day their golf-obsessed father introduced them to it.

Enoch Duma was an avid amateur golfer from the Eastern Cape, but the sport became more than a hobby when he started working for the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB). That job soon became a life's passion when his daughters fell in love with golf while following him around the course as his caddies at the Alexander Golf Club in East London.

It's a love relationship that is difficult to maintain, given the lack of financial support for women's golf and the lengths to which the Duma sisters have had to go to remain committed. The sisters from Mdantsane near East London made history in 2017 when they became the first black female golfers to turn professional.

"I developed a love of golf by watching my father play. It got me interested, so when I touched a golf club I thought, I really want to play this game. It's very nice and it's not like the other sports. It was different. It was chilled," says 26-year-old Yolanda.

"My father is not a professional golfer, but he was good. He played for Border. It was difficult for us black people those days even to get on the course. You didn't go that far."

Professional golfer Michelle de Vries started mentoring the sisters in 1999, when they were young girls, and introduced them to the SAGDB, Border Ladies Golf, the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation and Women's Golf South Africa.

Road to professionalism

For Siviwe, the support was life-changing. "As a township junior girl golfer, I got to travel to other provinces and golf supported me financially. I was inspired when I was selected to represent my province at an early age, and by the financial support," she says.

Having paid their dues in the amateur ranks, the Duma sisters hoped they would gain the financial support when they turned pro to pursue a fruitful career in golf. Sadly, nearly three years later, sponsorship has eluded them along with a pro tournament win. But it is early days in a career that could span two decades and were it not for the SAGDB, the Duma sisters wouldn't have progressed this far.

Aspiring golfers would have had to take at least three taxis to get to the one driving range near Mdantsane, where the Duma sisters grew up. The range has since been scrapped to make way for a shopping mall, leaving young golfers with the choice of either abandoning their dreams or finding another way to be close to the sport.

A benevolent community doctor helped the sisters by paying for their travel costs to provincial tournaments during their amateur days. It was the kind of support the sisters had hoped would improve when they turned professional. For now, they are restricted to playing on the Sunshine Ladies Tour.