A GAP IN GENUINE SUPPORT FOR TALENTED GOLFERS
The Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation tracks its history back as far as 1999 when Ernie Els realised there was a gap in genuine support for talented young golfers from families of limited resources in South Africa and he set about giving back to the game in his country of birth and started making significant differences in many, many lives.
Since its inception, the Foundation has been built on three fundamental pillars, which are: golf; education; and life skills. As the Foundation has grown and evolved over the years, these pillars have remained constant, as they do today.
Of the three pillars, golf is, of course, the obvious one, however, it is fair to say that education gets the most attention – no member of the Foundation can think that golf is all they need to take them along through the rocky journey of life! From the inception too, girls have been included among the members, however, when the Foundation focused on high-school aged members, it was certainly a difficult task to recruit talented youngsters who had a genuine future in golf at such a young age;
Typically the Foundation would be looking in the U12 and U13 age groups, which proved difficult especially among the girls. Given that golf is not a mainstream school sport in South Africa like rugby, cricket, waterpolo and netball, It is a reality that boys are generally introduced to the game by their golf-playing fathers. It is also a reality that there are much fewer fathers who introduce their daughters to the game by allowing them to tag along to caddie or to have a few wild swipes at the ball while dad tries to navigate the course.
Finding talented junior girl golfers who had not yet started high school therefore proved to be very difficult in the early days of the Foundation.
MERGING THE ERNIE ELS & FANCOURT FOUNDATIONS
In 2005, the Ernie Els Foundation and the Fancourt Foundation merged to become the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation as it is known today. To begin with – and at great expense – the Foundation was based at a hostel at Fancourt, with the members attending local schools and using the world-class practice facilities and golf courses at the world-renowned golf resort.
It was not too long before it was decided that the benefits of having members at home with their families in familiar surroundings far outweighed those of a golf boarding school environment and the Foundation started developing the team of family, golf coach and school around each member. Within a number of years, it was also decided to focus on talented golfers from families of limited resources who had finished matric at a traditional high school and to support them in their tertiary education and their ultimate goal of becoming a successful professional golfer.
However the Foundation has never lost sight of the fact that professional golf is one of the toughest professions from which to make a genuine living and have a successful career, so the emphasis on education while a member of the Foundation has never wavered.
And while the Foundation has boasted among its former members such superstars as Louis Oosthuizen and numerous regulars on professional Tours around the world, it is particularly proud of those who have gone on to successful careers in golf-related industries – or even industries completely unrelated to golf. Several former members have gone on to golf scholarships in the USA at various colleges –
Cas Bridge went to the University of Tulsa where she completed her Doctor of Philosophy (Hydrogeology) and is currently working as an Environmental Geoscientist for Chevron in Houston, Texas. Silvia Masango attended the prestigious Auburn University in Alabama, which Shanice De Gee went to Northeastern State University recently.
Congratulations to former Foundation member Sylvia Masango for graduating from Auburn University with an MA.
Zanele Mazibuko finished her BA Honours in Sports Management at the University of Tswane and is currently working for the PGA of South Africa, while Bianca Theron did a B.Com Honours (Actuarial Science) at Stellenbosch University.
The Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation’s stated mission is to identify and assist young talented individuals, in golf, predominantly from families of limited resources and to deliver to them educational assistance and playing opportunities in order to produce successful young leaders and develop their playing ability to its full potential. By focusing on the three pillars of golf, education and lifeskills, the Foundation constantly celebrates the success of its former members – and it certainly is not only on the golf course where that success is achieved!