Roger Wessels, a man hugely respected within professional golf ranks in South Africa and in other parts of the world, played in his first ‘official’ event since retiring from competitive golf in 2003. Roger was invited to play as a senior professional golfer in the Gary Player Invitational at Zimbali Country Club in Durban mid-November. The format includes only 8 fourballs with each fourball made up of a regular touring professional golfer, a senior professional golfer, a celebrity guest and a business person.
Roger acquitted himself extremely well, playing alongside Jesper Parnevick in the betterball medal professional competition. They finished the two days in 10 under par, which was an excellent performance. The tournament was won by George Coetzee and Mark James at 19 under par. George Coetzee is a rising young star in the golf world, whilst Mark James was Captain of the European Ryder Cup team in 1999 and won the Ford Seniors Players Championships, one of the ‘Majors’ on the Seniors Tour in 2004. Of interest is that when Roger won the SA PGA Championship at the Wanderers in 2001 he beat the self same Mark James in a play-off to win the title.
In the team event, Roger played alongside Jesper Parnevick, ex-Springbok rugby player Breyten Paulse and Ron Boon, Chairman of the KeNako Academy in George. The team had an excellent tournament and finished second at minus 34 in the fourball alliance competition played over 36 holes. In the team competition the best 2 nett scores on each hole counted.
Roger had the privilege of being selected for a live television interview on Sunday morning and he had the opportunity to talk not only about his life since retiring from the European Tour and the South African Tour but also the chance to mention some of the excellent work being done by KeNako’s community related programmes which are making such a difference to those individuals receiving assistance from the team at KeNako.
It was excellent to see Roger ready to compete once again and to see him playing as well as he did. Roger’s golf has been somewhat irregular over the past several years so it was good to see Roger getting in some rounds and some practice after he received his invite. Roger is grateful to Gary Player for inviting him to play in the Gary Player Invitational, which is a very special event. This year’s tournament at Zimbali was the 12th edition of the GPI and Roger last played in 2001 when the tournament was at Pecanwood Estate outside of Johannesburg. At that time Roger was still competing on the European Tour. Over the years the GPI had raised tens of millions of Rands for underprivileged people in South Africa. The week before the Zimbali event Gary and his team had hosted the GPI in China – Gary’s continued commitment and enthusiasm for golf and for the many causes that he supports is truly amazing and an example for others to follow.
There can be little doubt that if Roger chose to play on one of the Seniors Tours of the world he would still acquit himself extremely well. His commitment and dedication in preferring to coach and nurture young talents in South Africa is admirable and a real boost for junior golf. It is seldom that a player of Roger’s calibre prefers not to compete but rather to share his knowledge and his experience. Those juniors benefitting from Roger’s tutelage will one day appreciate the quality of coaching and training that they have received!
Roger shows that he has lost none of his style as he tees off in the first round of the Gary Player Invitational at Zimbali.
Ron Boon, Jesper Parnevick, Breyten Paulse and Roger Wessels finished second in the Fourball Team Competition at the Gary Player Invitational played at Zimbali.
Deon Muller, a resident in Durban, is enrolled as a new student at the KeNako Academy in 2012. Deon was a volunteer at the GPI and followed Roger and his fourball for the last few holes of the final round of the event. Here Deon is seen with Jesper Parnevick and Roger. Deon told us that he cannot wait to get to KeNako!