A group of “ou toppies” playing golf on the brown sandy pitch of Portland sports field are proud of their prodigy Aaqil Salie, 6, who only seven months ago picked up a club for first time and has already won two out of three South African Kids Golf tournaments.
He came second in the latest competition held last month.
“If he keeps on, he is going to be a champ. He is God-gifted,” said Thomas Magolie, 71.
Mr Magolie helps out at Mondale High School, a neighbour to the field. He is one of three pensioners who pass Aaqil’s house to play golf on the field.
Jack Lucien van Schalkwyk, fondly known as “Coach”, said: “He got it. All I know I’m going to give it to him. He is the future champ!”
He worked as a caddy from the age of 15 at King David Mowbray Golf Club, where he served many golfers, including the Henning brothers Harold and Brian; and Ken Radford, from England.
Cedric Busch, 63, who has been playing for five years, after needing to play the sport for work, said Aaqil is constantly improving his game.
“This young man has talent,” he said.
When the Plainsman asked Aaqil how he came to play, he replied: “The uncle use to take me to the field,” he said about Coach.
He said he loved hitting balls.
His aunt, Tasneem Arnold, said the old men encouraged Aaqil and told his parents to take him to Momentum Driving Range, in Wynberg, where they met his coach, Kurt Stripp.
“From nothing a dream has developed,” she said.
Aaqil was also given a set of clubs by his cousin, Ilyaaz Arnold, 15, who gave up the game in Grade 3, after playing it for two years.
“I wasn’t so good,” said Ilyaaz.
For his sixth birthday in August, Aaqil’s parents, Wiedaad and Faiek, bought him another set of clubs.
Since then, they have been taking him to weekly coaching sessions at Royal Golf Club, in Ottery, and matches every other Saturday.
Every Friday, Coach takes him down the road, where a nine-hole golf course is marked out.
Aaqil played his first tournament at Kuils River Golf Club, in November, and the second at Boschenmeer Golf Estate, in Paarl, where he was the winner in the 5 to 6 years boys’ category.
He took second place at Somerset West Golf Club in January, in the same category.
Ms Salie told the Plainsman Aaqil was always hitting something.
“We have to tell him be careful of the television. Our heads!” she said. “He is always putting. I would like to see him succeed.”
Ms Salie said that last year, she had to sit in class every day because Aaqil would cry.
“This year he seems to have blossomed and goes to school on his own,” she said.
She admits that the sport is expensive but that Aaqil is doing well.
“Heisbeatingchildrenwho have been playing for years,” she said.
“We are very proud of him. We have to take him to play on greener fields so he can reach his potential.”
Portland field is where it all started for Aaqil, but Ms Salie said it was also where wrong elements loitered. She said soccer matches were played on the pitch, which often had police patrolling.
But she remains optimistic about her son’s future.
“We are so proud of him. He can play this sport and show the rest of the community and the country that Mitchell’s Plain has talent,” she said.