Golfing great reminisces about his career

John Petersen, 90, from Bridgetown, played amateur golf for many years, and although apartheid prohibited him from playing professionally, he has no regrets.

A 90-year-old Bridgetown man who has won numerous golf championships as an amateur over the years, is not bitter that apartheid prohibited him from playing professionally.

John Petersen took the Athlone News on a trip down memory lane when he shared his story about his love for the game, which he first took up as a six-year-old boy.

Mr Petersen and his family were among 20 families who lived on what is now the Mowbray Golf Course, an area known then as Raapenberg.

Although the golf course was on Mr Petersen’s doorstep, he was not allowed to play there – like all other people of colour during apartheid. He said they could not play with white people, and that they were denied access to the golf clubs, including its facilities. This did not deter him, however, and he used to find alternative ways to hone his skill, on a daily basis. The exception was when the South African Golf organisers made allowance once a year, for the use of the golf course, to play the then “Coloured SA Open”.

“Where the City Lodge Hotel is now, that used to be our home. I was in the amateur league. I would have liked to play professional, but we were not allowed to. I used to practice every day by playing between the trees, as we could not use the golf course. I could not get a handicap, because you had to belong to a club, and the clubs were only available for white people. We only had an opportunity once a year to play on a golf course. And even on that day, we were not allowed to use the facilities, like the clubhouse,” Mr Petersen said.

At the age of 13, he won his first trophy, which has taken pride of place in his Bridgetown home, where it is displayed with many other achievements.

Mr Petersen dropped out of school and was a golf caddy for a number of years, before becoming a skilled player himself. He played his final competitive game 27 years ago, at the age of 65. On this day he won his final trophy in Oudtshoorn.

As a highly skilled golfer, he has travelled all over South Africa, playing the sport he loves, earning dozens of trophies and championship wins.

Among the titles he has won, are the Beaufort West Open, and the Western Province Knock-Out. He has also won the Midlands Club Championship eight times. He captained the Western Province team twice, and on both occasions they won the trophy.

Mr Petersen’s late wife, Rosina, supported his love for the game and used to travel with him across the country for competitions. The couple was married for 65 years when Ms Petersen died three years ago. Their son Gary, was named after the South African golfing great, Gary Player. Mr Petersen also has two grandchildren.

In acknowledgement of his achievements, Mr Petersen was presented with a Lifetime Honorary Membership at the Cape Peninsula Golf Club in 1999. It is now known as Wynberg Golf Club.