R&A Foundation

Mizuno support for The R&A Foundation is boost for emerging African golf stars

The R&A
11 Jun 24
3 mins

The R&A’s Africa High Performance Programme is being boosted with the provision of golf clubs from Mizuno to help develop talent across the continent.

The R&A has embarked on a series of initiatives to grow the game of golf across Africa, including the launch of the Africa Amateur Championship and Women’s Invitational in February, with an overarching message that golf is a game for everyone. A key strategy for further establishing the sport across the continent is to increase the number of elite players in the region, to act as an inspiration for aspiring young golfers. Japanese equipment manufacturer Mizuno has come on board to assist in that objective, donating golf equipment to The R&A Foundation which will be used by players in the High Performance Programme.

Promising African talents

Launched in 2022 by The R&A in partnership with the International Golf Federation (IGF), the PGA of South Africa and Olympic Solidarity, the High Performance Programme provides support for the most promising talents across the African continent. An elite squad sits at the heart of the initiative with coaching camps held in countries such as Egypt, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe acting as a pathway to that elite squad. “We realised the need to create a stronger feeder network into the programme,” said Eden Thompson, Development Manager – Africa for The R&A. “Thereby broadening the exposure of players to a high level of coaching.” One of the more significant challenges in establishing the programme has been the provision of equipment. It became evident that there were talented young players lacking access to the right equipment to aid their development. That is where Mizuno and The R&A Foundation have stepped in. “It emerged that even some of the top players were sharing equipment,” said Kevin Barker, Director – Golf Development – GB&I & Africa at The R&A. “We reached out to the British Golf Industry Association (BGIA) in search of partners willing to lend a helping hand. Mizuno was the manufacturer who answered the call.”

Making a difference

Mizuno has provided enough equipment to The R&A Foundation to initially support 15 players, with plans to extend this support to a total of 60 players this year. “This will hopefully make a big difference for a few players,” said Rob Jackson of Mizuno. “We need to do more than just say ‘grow the game.’ Rihachi Mizuno founded our company to contribute to society through sports. He would be proud of this project.” Seventeen-year-old Tanaka Chatora of Zimbabwe is one of the players to have benefited from Mizuno’s involvement in the programme. Chatora is one of the most talented junior golfers in Africa with a number of strong performances already under his belt.  “I recently received the clubs from Mizuno and I want to express my gratitude to both The R&A Foundation and Mizuno,” he said. “They have really helped my game, they have allowed me to play with more confidence. The High Performance Programme is really inspiring young people to get into golf and to work on their games to get the same opportunities I have enjoyed.”

Platform to grow game

The R&A’s involvement in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) and Latin America Amateur Championship (LAAC) has demonstrated how successful support for the elite game can be in providing a platform to grow the game from the grassroots, encouraging young players to follow in the footsteps of those who have enjoyed victories and solid finishes. Following the success of the AAC and LAAC, The R&A hosted the inaugural Africa Amateur Championship in February at Leopard Creek in South Africa. In total, 72 men and 20 women competed, representing 24 affiliated African countries. The winner of the Africa Amateur, Altin van der Merwe, earned an exemption to play in The Open at Royal Troon in July.  “I can’t wait,” said the champion. “It’s links golf and I’ll be licking my chops out there with the little sting two-iron. I can’t wait!”

Bright future

Three spots were also up for grabs in The 152nd Open at The Gateway to The Open Mizuno Open, played over the weekend. Ryosuke Kinoshita, Guntaek Koh and Yuto Katsuragawa all qualified. In last year’s Mizuno Open, two former Asia-Pacific Amateur Champions – Keita Nakajima and Takumi Kanaya – earned spots in the field for The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool. Both now established professionals, their success is a clear demonstration of the importance of top-level championships like the Asia-Pacific Amateur and now the Africa Amateur to create pathways for young players. With the establishment of the Africa Amateur Championship and the burgeoning Africa High Performance Programme, supported by Mizuno, the future of elite golf across the continent of Africa looks bright.