FEATURE: Whatever happened to James Kamte – SA’s Tiger Woods?
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Johannesburg – James Kamte at one point during his career was hailed as South Africa’s Tiger Woods by Gary Player, but his journey from prodigy to journeyman has been disconcerting for a nation crying out for a black golf star.
Now aged 39 and ranked 1402nd in the world, Kamte these days misses more cuts than he makes and is a shadow of the player which seemed destined for greatness in the late 2000s.
Kamte won three times in just over a year on the Sunshine Tour starting in September 2007, with his breakthrough coming at the Seekers Travel Pro-Am.
In fact, he won his 2008 European Tour card at the gruelling Qualifying School – Final Stage. This came after a second place finish in the Tusker Kenya Open on the European Challenge Tour and a fourth at the Vodafone Challenge.
When Kamte earned his European Tour card, he became the first black South African player to earn full playing privileges since Vincent Tshabalala in 1976 and 1977.
He earned his European Tour card again through Qualifying School – Final Stage in 2009. With limited status on the European Tour, Kamte played on the Asian Tour and won the first event of the 2009 season on February 8 – the Asian Tour International. It would prove the biggest victory of his career.
A week later, he finished in a solid tie for 11th at the Maybank Malaysian Open. His result prompted a rise to 174th in the world rankings. The golfing world was his oyster, but number 174 on the globe would prove to be Kamte’s career high world ranking.
His achievements in the game, which to date see that he has missed 137 cuts in the 296 events he’s played, or ‘been in the money’ in just 46 percents of the tournaments in which he has participated, belie his natural talent.
Though GolfRSA remains a shining light in developing golfers from all backgrounds in South Africa, the fact remains – golf in the Rainbow Nation is still a white elitist sport. The allure of golf for many a sporting prodigy is low compared to soccer, rugby or even cricket.
It’s for this reason that when golfers do make it as a professional, and learn how to compete and sometimes even win on the world stage like Kamte did – that players like him need to keep their name up there – if only to inspire the next generation of young black players. If a young black South African can’t see someone that looks like him excelling, he has no inspiration to keep playing a game which is filled with competitors who have come from far greater privilege.
Golf equipment and the majority of courses in South Africa, remain prohibitively expensive and exclusive – and it is rare to see anything but a non-black procession of golfers stroll the fairways.
Until this changes, it may be some time before someone with the talent of Kamte is produced again. As for Kamte himself, he still has time to turn things around – though it remains unlikely as this year alone he’s missed seven cuts in the 10 events he’s played. Here’s hoping anyway.
African News Agency (ANA)