Article by Sarah Anderson – Corporate Image
When golfing professional Arnold Mentz gets out his clubs to instruct South Coast youngsters on their swing, he believes that beyond stance, grip and swing, the game imparts essential life skills.
The 73-year-old former tour commissioner of the Sunshine Tour of South Africa is the teaching professional at the Wild Coast Sun Hotel and Casino Resort in Port Edward, and since October 2017, has run the hotel’s Golf Coaching Academy.
“Golf teaches certain values which other sports don’t have,” Mentz said. “Honesty, integrity, sharing, respect, perseverance and courtesy. These core values help them to become better citizens in the long run.”
Each week, Mentz instructs between 15 and 20 players ranging in age from eight to eighteen, who attend Ithuba and Vulendlala schools in the local Eastern Cape schools. On a Friday afternoon, they play and learn on-course rules and regulations, Saturday mornings find them on the resort’s challenging 18-hole championship golf course that stretches along the stunning Wild Coast, practising putting, chipping and bunker play. “During quiet times of the year when the course is not busy, they sometimes play an extra nine holes during the week.” The closure of schools meant that the children could play more frequently while observing Covid-19 protocols such as wearing masks, and the lessons are paying off – four of the children who started playing less than a year ago are now handicapped between 12 and 16, down from 36. “There are girls and boys, and three of the female players, in particular, are doing very well.”
The children depend on donations and hand-me-downs for clothing and equipment, although Mentz says often what is donated is beyond usable. “The Mbizana Municipality has donated two sets of clubs, and Fred Beaver, our golfing professional, also donates regularly.” The Wild Coast Sun Hotel and Casino Resort contributed t-shirts, trousers and caps to ensure a uniform look for the junior golfers.
Any school-going child can come for lessons, but they have to be in school in order to participate in the Academy. “The kids I instruct are at school every day and I am proud to say that their academic achievements have improved, some up to 40%.”
Mentz is planning tournaments against another development squad from Matatiele and is looking forward to seeing how his side shapes up.
“I only started playing golf when I was 27 and was a scratch player by the time I was 34. I was fortunate enough to be coached in the United States by David Leadbetter (a revered voice in the world of golf instruction and personal coach to several top PGA, LPGA and European Tour players (who also coached South Africans including David Frost and Nick Price).”
After realising he particularly enjoyed coaching, Mentz completed coaching courses and learnt about the psychology of the game. After resigning from the corporate world in his early 40s, he was the professional at Southbroom and later Stellenbosch Golf Clubs. Running the Wild Coast Sun Golf Coaching Academy is not his first foray into progressing youngsters – he helped to plan and start the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) as well as the Ernie Els Foundation. The SAGDB today operates around the country.
“Coaching is my passion and I am excited to contribute to the future of South African golf by helping our youngsters get to grips with the game, and appreciate all the assistance I receive from the Wild Coast Sun Hotel and Casino Resort,” he said.