Growing up feeling as though he didn’t fit in, golf has given Curtley Roberts a sense of belonging and set him on the path to achieving a long-held ambition, writes Craig Stirton.
Time. That abstract concept which governs so much of human existence. People often talk about time being “on their side”. In the first few minutes and hours of Roberts’ life though, time conspired against him and fundamentally changed the future which lay before him.
“The doctor was three hours late and my mother was already giving birth to me which resulted in me breaking my collarbone,” says Roberts.
“The doctor who eventually came gave my mother two options and said: ‘either you can keep the arm and it’s never going to work or we have to amputate.’
Roberts parents opted for the former and set about providing their son with all the love and support he needed in his formative years. Unfortunately the fantastic support Roberts received at home was in stark contrast to the ridicule he was subjected to at school.
“Personally I got bullied a lot but I never let it affect my schoolwork and my parents really kept me up after school.”
“I never really had friends, never really fitted in that well but hey I made my own path.”
Roberts rose above the negativity though and excelled both academically and on the cricket field. He featured in the school’s merit evening throughout his school career and became a fixture in the First XI cricket team from Grade 8 right up until matric.
As sometimes happens with sportspeople, Roberts’ primary sporting pursuit took a backseat to golf. Among the many appealing aspects of the game, it was the individuality and the ethos which drew Roberts to golf.
“I had friends who played golf. They lived across the road from me and their parents always played golf. There was a huge park in front of my house so after school I went and practiced with my wedge in the park.”
“I started playing golf when I was 13 and I actually skipped a few cricket camps that we had [so that I could] go and play golf. The golf bug bit because there was no chirping and no putting down,” remarks Roberts.
Largely self-taught to begin with, Curtley spent hours poring over the Instruction section of Golf Digest magazine and it was during this time that he first harboured thoughts of one day becoming a PGA professional.
After finishing school, Roberts joined the South African Disabled Golf Association and finally tasted the acceptance he’d craved for so long.
“I was highly motivated by the fact that we all get treated like golfers instead of disabled people. SADGA is a brilliant environment. Without SADGA I’d be nowhere with golf,” he admits.
The SADGA has afforded Roberts a number of opportunities. For one, he’s been able to play competitive sport again, representing Team North at the 2020 SADGA Provincial Challenge. More importantly though Roberts has begun his three-year PGA Degree under the mentorship of Elsabe Hefer. Last year Roberts obtained his PGA Grow Golf Coaches certificate en route to completing his first year of PGA studies. The PGA of South Africa, various donors together with the SADGA all contributed towards funding Curtley’s first year of studies while SADGA’s generous patron Dale Hayes has offered to pay for his second-year tuition in 2021. Zwartkop Country Club have also supported Curtley tremendously and from December last year employed him in a capacity which gives him exposure to the wide-ranging operations in effect at the club.
As for his aspirations at the Canon SA Disabled Golf Open, sentiment could spur Roberts on as he eyes an even better showing than his Top-10 finish in the Les Autres division in 2019.
“I’m really motivated to crack the Top-10 of the Overall category,” he says.
“Umhlanga is a good place for me, my dad always used to take us on vacations there. Now that he’s gone it’s a real motivator for me to play well.”
Motivated, and on the path to realising his dreams – Curtley Roberts looks set for a fantastic Canon SA Disabled Golf Open at Mount Edgecombe Country Club.
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