From bars to birdies
JOHANNESBURG (10 December 2014) - An innovative golf educational programme managed by the PGA of South Africa is being used to help rehabilitate offenders at a KwaZulu-Natal correctional facility and give them a new start in life.
The Golfwise programme at the Glencoe Correctional Services facility is now in its ninth year and has already produced 45 graduates, one of whom has even gone on to secure a fulltime job on the course maintenance staff at Cotswold Downs Golf and Lifestyle Estate.
The programme involves PGA professional Graham Treager teaching a group of handpicked offenders the basics of the game of golf, how to caddie, how to maintain a golf course, and even the etiquette of the game. It's a year-long programme, with five offenders at a time.
And it's become one of the greatest success stories for the PGA of South Africa and its Regional Committee in KwaZulu-Natal.
"The programme has done amazing things for our region and for these offenders," says Jason Bird, the KwaZulu-Natal Regional Chairman of the PGA of South Africa.
"It's one of the most positive initiatives we're involved in, and you can see the difference it makes to these people and the surrounding community."
Most of the offenders are in prison for petty crimes, and Bird says the Golfwise programme has been a perfect solution for them and the local Department of Correctional Services.
"When it comes to social responsibility programmes, it's sometimes really difficult to see the true value for the individual. But here you can see a very real difference being made. Most of these offenders have just lost their way, and Golfwise is giving them a second chance."
The offenders practice their new skills on the Glencoe nine-hole course, and Bird says it's amazing to see what they do with very little resources.
"They deliver such a great product with the resources they have. You know, they don't have big mowers or anything like that. They have a tractor that pulls a very rudimentary mower behind it, so it can sometimes take them the better part of a day to cut one fairway.
"But it's really pleasing to see the passion they have for the course. The offenders who are handpicked by the Department are the ones who really want to learn and give themselves a new start in life. And that's when this programme becomes absolutely invaluable."