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Grass Gets Greener For Young South African Golfing Wonder

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Seven-year-old Simthandile ‘Sim Tiger’ Tshabalala already has the golfing world at his feet.


South African golf legend Gary Player believes the country has the potential to produce the next Tiger Woods, a superstar with charisma and global appeal that will win major titles and become a role model to millions around the world.

Player told FORBES AFRICA late last year he was “convinced there is a black girl or boy in South Africa today with tremendous athletic prowess, and with the talent to be a champion”.

Player’s prophecy could come true sooner than, perhaps even, he expects, with the emergence of seven-year-old Simthandile ‘Sim Tiger’ Tshabalala, a youngster that has shown such outstanding talent on the golf course that the world has sat up to take notice.

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Tshabalala, who learned the game from YouTube videos and has only been professionally coached for the last few years, has already played at the Australian Open, where he came fourth, has played in Malaysia and Scotland, and won the local US Kids Tour this year.

He will soon be jetting off to the United States, England and Canada for more events in the coming month, fueling his passion to one day emulate, and then surpass, his hero.

“It’s going very well, it’s very exciting for me,” Tshabalala tells FORBES AFRICA. “I really look up to Tiger Woods, he was number one in the world for so long.

Seven-year-old Simthandile ‘Sim Tiger’ Tshabalala. Picture Supplied

“He won so many tournaments and, just like me, he started playing at such a young age. He carried that through to his adult life and became a legend.”

The way Tshabalala talks; he is seven going on 17, such is the maturity with which he answers questions.

Clearly, an exceptionally talented, and level-headed child, he has the golfing world at his feet.

His father, Bonginkosi Tshabalala, admits his son’s success has taken him rather by surprise, but he is determined to make sure all avenues are open for the youngster.

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“I grew up with an absent father, with no male guidance or exposure to many things, so it’s very important for me to be able to provide this platform for Sim. I want him to have a better life than me,” Tshabalala senior says.

The young Sim tried just about every sport going, but none stuck until he picked up a golf club.

“From the age of two, we have tried all sports – tennis, swimming, cricket, soccer and finally golf,” his father says.

“I must admit I did not even know what a golf course looked like.

Seven-year-old Simthandile ‘Sim Tiger’ Tshabalala holds the South African flag up high. Picture: Supplied

“I had no clue about the rules of the game, but I thought I had to teach myself first, then I could pass that on to Sim.

“So I bought some clubs, and the two of us would sit and watch YouTube videos with coaching tips and the like, trying to learn the game.

“We had been going to the driving range together and he was really enjoying it, so I decided to get him formal coaching.”

But Tshabalala senior, who is also his son’s caddy, says it is not enough and they put in hours and hours of practice together each week.

“If you give him a fork to eat with, he will use it to practise his swing. The first thing he does in the morning when he gets out of bed is practice his swing. He is amazingly committed to the game.”

Seven-year-old Simthandile ‘Sim Tiger’ Tshabalala on the gold course. Picture: Supplied

Such is his promise that ‘Sim Tiger’ has already secured a sponsorship from top global golf equipment manufacturer, TaylorMade, but for the rest, his increasingly expensive career is being funded by his father.

“We will be at the World Championships in North Carolina from August 1 to 3. Then we travel to England for the British Kids Championship on August 8 and 9, and from there, we play the 2019 Canadian Invitational on August 12 to 13.

“It is obviously very expensive, and we are looking for sponsorship, but at the same time, it is an amazing experience.

“When we went to Malaysia, it was the first time, I had never been outside of South Africa, so we have grown together as a family.”

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For Tshabalala senior, this journey is much more than golf and travel, it is a chance for him to spend time with his son, perhaps healing some of those old wounds that linger from his father not providing him with the same support.

“Whatever happens in the future, it has brought us closer, and hopefully, he has learned some life lessons along the way,” he says.

Seven-year-old Simthandile ‘Sim Tiger’ Tshabalala. Picture: Supplied

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