HISTORY OF THE COUNTRIES
The Annual SA Country Districts Tournament, also called the Countries by Dirk van Jaarsveld, has become an established and very popular fixture in the SA Golfing calendar, yet surprisingly enough it was only played from as recently as 1970.
The first Tournament was played at George Golf Club in May of that year and came about mainly through the efforts of the late Kallie Krause, President of the South West African Golf Union.
Krause had the support of Southern Cape and the East and West Karoo Golf Associations, who wanted Provincial competition on an Annual basis to encourage and promote golf in their areas.
The smaller Unions could not be accommodated in the Interprovincial set-up, so the SA Golf Union decided to hold a Country Districts Tournament for a trial period of two years. George agreeing to be hosts the first year.
In 1969 there had been a "challenge match" between Southern Cape and Free State in Kimberly, which engendered a lot of interest. Later that year the Karoo Sub-Unions and South West Africa were invited to form a team to play a triangular against the visiting Rhodesian team and Free State. The combined team performed satisfactorily and this further encouraged the demand for a Country Districts Tournament.
The first two tournaments at George and Hans Merensky, in Phalaborwa were such a success that the SAGU had little option but to add the SACD to it's roster.
The teams that played at the outset were Boland, the inaugural winners, Southern Cape, who won the second year, South West Africa, Combined Eastern & Western Karoo and Transvaal Country Districts. These five teams continued to participate until 1990, when SWA withdrew in the year of Namibian independence.
Another Transvaal Team replaced it in 1991 at Phalaborwa, then a combined team called the Quads, drawn from Free State, Natal, Border and Eastern Province country districts, competed from 1992 to 1994.
As Southern Cape had been included in the "C" section of the Interprovincial in October 1993 only four teams competed in 1994 at Upington. This was the first Karoo venue to act as tournament hosts.
In 1995 two combined teams, EP - Border and Natal - Free State replaced Southern Cape and Quads.
From the word go the late Kallie Krause was the guiding light at the weeklong SACD tournament. He played for and captained the SWA Team, served as team manager and was a permanent "Master of Ceremonies" for the evening dinners, until his untimely death in a car accident in the mid 1970's.
Thereafter the team managers elected from among their ranks the MC for the week. Dirk van Jaarsveld was MC for 5 years in the 90's and was later succeeded by Roelf "Fatman" Craig who filled this position admirably. On a number of occasions Richard "The Walking Eagle" Hargreaves has handled this portfolio in like manner.
Krause could never have dreamt that the event would go from strength to strength over the years. That it did so was in no small measure due to the spirit of the South Wester's and to a slightly lesser extent the Karoo contingent. Playing in the Tournament on courses far better than anything they were accustomed to back home had a great deal to do with it.
Initially there was no sponsorship for the Tournament, but this was finally offered in 1973 when Jimmy Males, a Director of John Dewar & Son, called in unexpectedly at the Tournament in Oudtshoorn. (He was involved in the SA Amateur and the Under 23 Teams events). He was highly impressed with the spirit and camaraderie and arranged that the Dewars Shield - one of the oldest sporting trophies in South Africa - be given to the SAGU for the SACD Tournament champions. The Shield was covered with small replicas dating back to 1902 and these were replaced each year with new shields commemorating the SACDT winners. The replaced replicas were attached to the back of the Shield. Dewars White Label were the sponsors from 1974 to 1990 and Bells took over in 1991 until 1999 and Klipdrift for 2000 and 2001. Since then - NO SPONSOR.
Traditions were quickly built up during the early years of the Tournament.
There is an Afrikaans expression - "eet hom soos ‘n mielie". At the 1972 Tournament at Hermanus SWA had a superb win over the Transvaal Country Districts team and Adri Basson left two tins of sweet corn on their table. (No fresh mielies were available).
At the 1974 Tournament in Windhoek, the first to be sponsored, members of the main table arrived a few minutes late for the opening dinner on the Sunday. The assembled teams all stood up and burst into spontaneous applause. This went down so well with the sponsors and the SAGU officials that it was arranged thereafter that the main table would only enter after the teams were seated at the opening dinner.
Originally at the evening dinners, the daily social highlight - with plenty of speeches, the team tables were arranged at random in front of the main table, with the largest tables (seating those teams with supporters or guests) at either end. Later this was changed to tables being arranged according to the previous years results. Some time later it was decided that on the Friday night, after the Tournament was finished, the tables would be rearranged according to the week's results.
The order of the tables added a great deal of interest to the competition, with the smaller Unions striving not to finish at the bottom of the log and having to sit at the table furthest from the winners. Apart from anything else, the service could be very slow.
In the early 1980's the bottom table was given the name of "Poepolhoek" and the name was openly used, causing a great deal of amusement to visiting guests. It became the Country Districts lore to such an extent that at dinner one year Nico Roets, of the SWA Team, recited a poem he had written entitled - "Dis lekker daar in POEPOLHOEK".
Initially at the Sunday opening dinner, after flag raising, the managers had little to speak about, so it was arranged that they would introduce their team members, making the latter stand up whilst doing so. It has also became tradition that new managers have to down a concoction that could drop an ox in its tracks
One year, after introducing his team, the SWA manager and his team all stood up and sang the German song "Prosit". Thereafter this became an Annual Sunday performance and it soon became known as the Country Districts song that was eventually added to the closing dinner on Friday when the whole assembly stood to sing as a customary farewell until the next year.
Before the opening dinner at Oranjemund in 1985, SAGU President Jimmy Metcalfe asked his Executive Director, Jim Kellie who had been associated with the Tournament since 1973, if the main table was introduced. When Kellie informed him that this was never the case, Metcalfe insisted that it should be done after dinner. Scorning the formal introductions that applied at the Interprovincial and SA Amateur Championships, Kellie introduced the main table in a light-hearted vein and this set the tone for another tradition.
It has become a new tradition that all fines collected at the evening meals be contributed to a local charity. It is rumoured that the present SAGA Executive Director, Bruce Younge, has contributed more to these good causes than any other team put together, despite pleading poverty on each occasion.
There have been many personalities over the years in the Tournament.
Raymond Dodds of SWA played for many years and was succeeded by his son Trevor, who later won the SA Open.
Apart from Dodds numerous professionals have come through the SACDT: - Pappas brothers, Sean, Craigen and Deane, Retief Goosen (SA Open, Masters and top 5), James Kingston, Kevin Stone, Callie Swart, Hennie Walters, Vaughn Groenewald, Pelop Panagopolous, James Kamte and Trevor Immelman
The late Joe (Pappa) Buirski represented Border for 13 consecutive years from 1971 to 1983, while Eddie Daniels (Mpumalanga) has played on and off since 1976, as well as Bertus Smit from 1976 to 1998. Gerald Williams of Boland played at Hans Merensky in 1970 as well as the Tournament in 1991 at the same venue.
There have been numerous incidents that have taken place over the years.
At the 1974 Tournament in Windhoek, on their way to the Mayoral reception, a lift was so overloaded with players and officials that it packed in at the second floor and fell to the basement. This thirsty bunch was eventually freed once the reception was over.
At the 1977 Tournament in Hermanus, the weather was so cold that one morning the SAGU President, Bill Kerr, sent a bottle of rum over to the halfway house. Just 15 minutes later a waiter came running over and asked for another bottle as the first was finished. This has been the only occasion that the cold drinks only rule at halfway has been infringed.
Another year a bearded Southern Cape golfer, having lost a bet on one of his matches, was dry shaved in front of the main table after dinner by Hank Swart, a barber and member of the SWA team. Swart was a born comedian who entertained the gathering at many dinners, shaved only one side of the poor unfortunates face and left him like that for the rest of the evening.
At a Tournament in Oudtshoorn an Irish Priest, who was an enthusiastic golfer, took the week off to help with the scoring. He was given a "walkie-talkie" and set out on the course to report on the state of matches. However no one could understand his rich Irish brogue and no one could summon up the courage to remove this eager helper from the job. Steps taken to cover-up and keep up to date with the scores had officials and player in stitches of laughter for the rest of the week.
Also at Oudtshoorn the star of the week was the Transvaal manager - Ray Earl. Nobody could last the pace with him until Dirk van Jaarsveld called in some help from the Boland Sub-Union, namely the late Piet van der Merwe and the late Ian Toerien, to help him succeed.
In 1990 at Paarl the last day was rained out but by that time Boland had already won.
Travelling to Hans Merensky in 1991 the Karoo and Boland teams travelled together in a bus. The maximum downhill speed of the bus was 80kph. Needless to say, after repeated stops for ice and Coca-Cola on the 8-½ hour trip, the final condition of the passengers was a bit suspect.
At Queenstown in 1993, the year of unrests, the police guarded the teams in their hotel. Let it be known that some players had more arms and ammunition in their bags than golf clubs.
In 1996 the number of teams was increased to 10. This Tournament was played at Royal Port Alfred and the MC and first Fines Master, Dirk van Jaarsveld, collected enough money to present the Golf Club with mounted photos of all the teams.
At Margate in 1997 the Boland side arrived on the Friday and when going to the dining room were very surprised to be treated to a steak braai on the veranda. After completing a sumptious meal they were informed that the braai was intended as a farewell to an employee of an Insurance company.
In 1998 at Kroonstad the Fines Master, Kenny McLachlan, was fined three times by the MC "Fatman" Craig for misplacing the fines box. Needless to say the box was "mislaid" by the MC. At this same event a stomach bug attacked the players, officials and indeed the whole town. It was so severe that Kroonstad ran out of Immodium and similar drugs. The bug was so virulent that it gave very little warning and the change rooms became the most visited area of the club. Bertus Smit had an attack on the course and went to squat behind a hump only to find that his rear end was pointing to the nearby street and that a lady was riding past on her bike.
Since 2000 Eastern Province, Karoo and Border have for years had their own private tournament - "The Poepolhoek Triangular". EP managed to hold onto the last position for years under the able leadership of manager Richard Hargreaves, but now the shackles have been broken. Karoo are in the "A" Section, Eastern Province top of the "B" Section and Border have lifted themselves from the bottom. Welcome to "Poepolhoek" Limpopo.
Previous winners and Venues:
The previous 36 tournaments have been spread throughout South Africa and Namibia at great golf courses such as Devonvale, George, Hans Merensky, Hermanus, Kimberley, Kroonstad, Langebaan, Margate, Middelburg, Mossel Bay, Nelspruit, Oranjemund, Oudtshoorn, Paarl, Pietersburg, Queenstown, Royal Port Alfred, Rustenburg, Upington, and Windhoek
This year (2006) for the first time it is hosted by St Francis Bay Golf Club and the Club Members and the EPGU hope that the Tournament will be filled with its own unique moments and incidents and that this venue becomes one of the favourite stopovers for the SACD Tournament in years to come.
Stuart McLean with the help from Jim Kellie, Executive Director of SAGU and SAGF for 21 years as well as updates from Dirk van Jaarsveld, previous manager of Boland and Bruce Younge. Additional information supplied by the EPGU - 2006.
The South African Golf Association and Womens Golf South Africa have joined forces to form GolfRSA, a new unified company that will professionally administer the commercial interests and golf operations of amateur golf in South Africa.
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