KEEP SMILING, KEEP SWINGING
Despite the difficulty associated with a hearing impairment, Charles Williams, from Cape Town, is carving out a wonderful life through golf
It all comes down to four days in Dubai for the top 50 DP World Tour players. Brendan Barratt
When did you first start playing golf and what attracted you to the game?
I grew up playing cricket and soccer but when I discovered the South African Disabled Golf Association through the First Swing Program at De La Bat School in Worcester, I loved that I could play and achieve in sport despite being deaf [Williams contracted meningitis when he was one year old, which left him deaf], so I am grateful to the SADGA and my late coach Oom Kulk Marthinus for introducing me to the game.
What impact has golf had on your life?
The SADGA First Swing Program motto is “Kids With A Brighter Future Through Golf”, and thanks to the wonderful people at SADGA my future is much brighter today than it was when I joined. Being part of the SADGA has given me the opportunity to develop as a golfer and, through my ongoing PGA of South Africa degree, the opportunity to develop as a coach and person.
Oom Kulk taught me to play the game in the right spirit and to give of my best in whatever pursuit, whether it be as a player or coach. I owe a lot to Oom Kulk because he taught me not just what it takes to be a great player and coach but a great person too. My manager Lily laughs at how strict I am with the children I coach but I benefited so much from Kulk’s guidance and I know that if I can teach my players the same values they’ll be better people for it.
I absolutely love working with the children of the First Swing Program and seeing how happy a well-played shot, hole or round makes them. At the end of the day, we are fortunate to have an organisation like SADGA that helps us connect with other deaf people and play and achieve in sport despite our challenges. I am grateful to be working in the game and hope I can help inspire my deaf pupils to improve their futures through golf.
Williams’ top five.
What was it like to represent South Africa at the 2022 Deaflympics in Brazil?
It was such a cool experience! To travel to a country like Brazil which is so different from South Africa and to meet other deaf people from all around the world while playing golf was great. I was quite nervous at the beginning but everyone was so friendly and made me feel very comfortable and relaxed. The golf director at Caxias Du Sul was very helpful and taught me a lot about how to play the course during the practice round. It was a good test of golf and I feel lucky to have gone, particularly with Cedric Touzard and Jay-Jay Botha. We had a great time together and I hope to compete in future Deaflympics.
What steps do you have in place to continue to play well and climb further up the ranks?
I’ve started to put in a lot more time at the gym which has helped me improve the quality of my ball striking. I’m fortunate that SADGA’s offices are just a short walk from the putting green and range at King David Mowbray Golf Club, so in between PGA assignments and First Swing Program lessons I’m able to work on my swing or my stroke. I’m eager to play a little more regularly between tournaments to keep my game sharp so that I can give myself the best possible chance of playing well in 2024.
What short-term goals have you set yourself?
I’ve never been one to look too far ahead, but it’d be great to try to lower my Handicap Index a little more in the next year or so because I feel like if I tighten up my short game I can get down to a scratch. As for tournament results, with more playing opportunities available to us in 2024 I’d like to get my game to where I am in with a chance of victory every time I play. This largely comes down to improving the quality of a bad day, turning an 85 into an 82 for example. Another goal of mine is to defend my Deaf Medal title at the 2024 Cape Town Disabled Golf Open. Being my home Open, it's always an event I’m extra eager to win!
The World Deaf Golf Federation has extended invitations to my pupils to participate at the 2024 World Deaf Golf Championship in Australia. Their participation is funding-dependent, but I’m trying to focus on preparing them as best I can and hope the rest takes care of itself.
INVESTEC SOUTH AFRICAN OPEN
The South African Disabled Golf Association had a stand at the Investec SA Open Tournament Village where spectators could simulate playing golf with a disability. They got the opportunity to test their skills while participating in the disability simulations. Williams was there to assist the spectators and engage with them. It was certainly an eye-opening experience for all those who took part. Pro golfers Thomas Aiken, Heinrich Bruiners and Jacques Kruyswijk also gave of their time, which was much appreciated by the SADGA members.
THINUS MARITZ/NIC BOTHMA/SOUTH AFRICAN DISABLED GOLF ASSOCIATION/TYRONE WINFIELD/PERFECT EXPOSURE/SHAUN ROY/SUNSHINE TOUR