Johan Swart: Centre Your Attention On Your Abilities
My memory for faces isn’t what it should be. I often forget I’ve met someone and the initial moments of a reintroduction are awkward as I scramble to remember their name and where I’ve met them before. This isn’t a reflection on them so much as it is my awful ability to retain visual information. One such example was meeting SADGA member Johan Swart at the airport en route to the Jedeal Tshwane Disabled Open: Johan greeted me enthusiastically while I embarrassingly faked remembering having met him. That’s on me. After spending tons of time with him that weekend I discovered what a memorable guy he is and someone with a firm grip on his life and sense of self despite the fingers on his right-hand being deformed.
From birth Johan had the doctors scratching their heads over his condition from the appropriate term to defining the correct course of treatment. With his digits fused to one another, there was talk of surgically separating them but this was ultimately discarded for fear of compromising functionality even further. Instead the specialists prescribed that his movement should be enhanced and strength increased by engaging the affected hand as often as possible. Frustrating and painstaking though this practice must’ve felt at times, this no doubt helped prepare Swart for the rigours of growing up in sport-crazed South Africa.
“I was raised in the Free State and attended Riebeeckstad High School. Throughout my school years, I actively participated in cricket and rugby. It wasn’t until Grade 8 that I ventured into golf. Initially, I played right-handed using my friends’ clubs,” Swart recalls.
In the years that followed, Swart’s exposure to the game was somewhat sporadic but it was while tagging along with his brother-in-law to the golf course that the proverbial golf bug truly bit.
“My brother-in-law used to invite me to the golf course. I would tag along, often serving as his caddy. Whenever I had the opportunity, I would seize the chance to take a swing or two.
“My passion for the game deepened when I bought my first set of golf clubs, and I’ve remained an avid golfer ever since, all thanks to him. Golfing with family is something I particularly enjoy; it’s a delightful way to spend time together.”
What began as a bonding exercise with family has evolved into a never-ending quest for Swart to try different methods of accommodating his limitations and see just how far he can take his game.
“I’ve adopted the “baseball” grip, which has proven to be the most effective for my playstyle. I’ve experimented with various grips, but this one consistently stands out as the best for me,” he says.
Swart has sought the advice of golf coaches in an effort to find ways of limiting the fatigue he experiences late in the round. He’;s clearly doing something right because not only does he play off an 11.0 Handicap Index but was also a member of Bellville Golf Club’s team that won the 2023 Harry Solomon League title.
As someone who has accomplished so much after being dealt a less than favourable hand (of cards!), Johan encourages others who face similar challenges to cherish the unique qualities they possess.
“Always believe in yourself and cherish your unique qualities each day. Strive to improve continuously, aspiring to outshine your previous self in life and on the golf course.
“Recognize and leverage your strengths and potential. Avoid limiting your identity to your disability. Instead, center your attention on your abilities and what you can achieve.”
This willingness to focus on what he is capable of and what he can achieve inspired the former Eastern Cape farmer to join the SADGA in 2022, an experience which has allowed him to marvel at the achievements of his new-found friends.
“I relish the experience of playing golf, connecting with new individuals, and witnessing the growth and development of others in the sport. I’ve also established some friendships through the game, and we often enjoy playing social golf together.”
Much like his approach to life, Swart is relishing the challenge posed by the upcoming Cape Town Disabled Golf Open hosted by The City of Cape Town.
“King David Mowbray is a course that demands excellent course management, with every shot being crucial. The upcoming Cape Town Disabled Golf Open is set to be a challenging event with outstanding golfers participating. I aspire to secure a place among the top 10.”
Remember the face. Remember the name. Whatever happens, remember that Johan Swart is certain to make a fist of it at the Cape Town Disabled Golf Open.