South Africa’s Daniël Slabbert is primed to face a power-packed line-up of international stars as he takes a fifth stab at success in next week’s Nedbank SA Disabled Golf Open at Zwartkop Country Club.
The defending champion will need to bring his A-game in the four-day event to stave off Americans Vince Biser and Chad Pfeiffer, Spanish stand-out Juan Postigo, Manuel de los Santos from the Dominican Republic and 2014 Nedbank SA Disabled Golf Open champion Josh Williams from Canada, among others.
‘Vince won the North American One-Armed Golfer Association Championship a record five times,’ he said. ‘Chad is a two-time US National Amputee Championship winner and has been impressive on the Web.Com Tour.
‘Juan has dominated the Spanish disabled golf scene in the last four years and Manuel shot to fame when he teed it up in three Alfred Dunhill Links Championships. He has competed in more than 10 pro events on European, Challenge and Senior Tours and brings a lot of experience.
‘Josh is a four-time Canadian Amputee winner and a former US Amputee champion and he loves to compete in South Africa. We have a tough task ahead of us against these guys.’
Slabbert is taking his cue from the world’s top wheelchair tennis ace Stephane Houdet in pursuit of a fifth victory in South African disabled golf’s flagship event.
‘I gave Stephane a golf lesson during the SA Open at Ellis Park earlier this month and we chatted about my title defence,’ said the 24-year-old Kathu golfer.
‘After I completed my PGA Teaching Diploma at the University of Pretoria’s High Performance Centre last year, I started teaching at the Level Par Academy in Pretoria. Between full-time coaching and an injury in February, I haven’t prepared for this year’s event as well as previous years.
‘Stephane told me that the will to win is the most powerful weapon in any athlete’s arsenal and the lack of preparation shouldn’t hold me back. He said: ‘Daniel, you know how to play; you know how to win; so don’t sweat it. Just play to win.’
‘So I’m not going to let anything hold me back. I’m going all in. I’m as hungry as I ever was to win and having top international competition is exciting. It’s definitely going to help me to raise my game.’
Like the flamboyant Houdet, Slabbert is a walking, talking envoy of that old adage ‘when life throws you lemons, make lemonade’.
Slabbert had his heart set on becoming a professional golfer when a trampoline accident at the age of 14 cost him his left leg.
‘I landed slightly off balance, and I shot off the trampoline towards the house,’ Slabbert recalls. ‘My leg went through a small window and severed every major artery and tendon above my knee. The doctors tried to save the leg, but the damage was so severe that they were forced to amputate through the knee.
‘Like most of the golfers competing in the Nedbank SA Disabled Golf Open next week, I know what it means to have to re-evaluate your chosen path. Up to that point my life was all about golf. Losing my leg didn’t change my goals. It just redefined my goals. I learned to play with a prosthetic and I’ve achieved so many goals I set for myself as a disabled golfer.’
Slabbert won three successive Nedbank SA Disabled Golf Open titles from 2011 and claimed his fourth when he held off world one-arm champion Reinard Schuhknecht last year. He has competed abroad extensively and joining former Sunshine Tour champion Patrick O’Brien’s Academy in Pretoria has just strengthened his resolve to realise his childhood dream.
Coaching has taught me a lot about structure and I have learned how to commit to my students, not just to myself,’ Slabbert said. ‘It is the greatest feeling to watch your students improve and just makes you hungry to get them to the next level.
‘I love coaching, every aspect of it, but I’m still set to get myself on the Sunshine Tour in the next three to five years. I may not play as much anymore, but I am hitting the ball much freer these days and I am still as competitive as ever. I can’t wait to get this show on the road next week.’
Picture of Slabbert courtesy of SADGA.