This little golf champ sure putts the rest of us in our place
South Africa's 8-year-old golfing sensation Traigh Pathon is well on the path to becoming a pro
As other young golfers from around the world were driving in private vehicles to the European Kids Golfing Championship in Scotland, eight-year-old South African golfing sensation Traigh Pathon and his family were catching public buses and eating two-minute noodles in preparation for the tournament.
“We really struggled in Scotland,” says Traigh’s mother Tiara Pathon. “If it wasn’t for Turkish Airlines sponsoring Traigh’s flights we wouldn’t have been able to even send him to Scotland.”But Traigh did attend the tournament and he ended on an -1 score, securing him a place in the top 10 in his age group.
The boy from Athlone was given a plastic set of golf clubs at Christmas and his swing seemed so natural, says Tiara, that they sought to nurture his talent. Traigh even appeared on television in a commercial, swinging his plastic clubs while still dressed in a nappy.He played his first local tournament at four years old, placing third overall.
Now, at eight years old, Traigh has been invited to tournaments around the world, most notably the World Junior Championships in America in August.
“For him to achieve what he has done is crazy. It’s crazy to think that a boy as tiny as this has come so far. He has so much potential. It doesn’t matter what [dad] David and I do, it’s all Traigh,” says a proud Tiara.After returning from the Scottish tournament, Traigh met Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille (where he asked “Aunty Pat” if she was really his aunty) and Traigh is expected to walk out with Springbok captain Siya Kolisi at the rugby Test against England next Saturday, June 23.
Traigh’s favourite golfer is American-born Dustin Johnson. “I like him because he hits the ball like a maniac, the ball goes so far,” says Traigh.
Traigh’s personal best drive is 150m, a mammoth distance for an eight-year-old, but it’s on the green that he enjoys the game the most. “I think the best part of my game is putting – because if you can’t putt, you can’t win tournaments,” says Traigh.His father David van Schalkwyk acts as his caddy and mentor, offering words of advice and playing games with Traigh at the River Club driving range in Observatory.
Van Schalkwyk is a sports enthusiast too, still playing in an over-35 soccer league in Cape Town as a striker. Tiara believes David is more excited about Traigh meeting Siya Kolisi than Traigh himself.“Traigh is still just a boy. He likes doing normal ‘boy things’ and none of this has gone to his head,” says Tiara. “We aren’t forcing him to play, he just really loves it. Sometimes I have to beg him to stop playing so we don’t get caught in the afternoon traffic on the way home.”