The soil around Rustenburg appears barren, but scratch a little deeper and it’s filled with some of the richest minerals on the planet. And as South African professional Brandon Stone experienced, it has an equal richness in humanity.
Ahead of the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player, Stone drove through the gates of the Retlakgona Primary School in Meriting, a community about 40 minutes outside of Sun City.
The school is a sanctuary for the local children, who grow up in extreme poverty. On Wednesday its 1 704 students all had their best school uniforms on, and their principal, teachers and prefects awaited the arrival of Stone.
The young South African grew up in Rustenburg. He was here to hand over a cheque of R100 000 that was raised at the Nedbank South African Charity Golf Day in England as part of the Nedbank Golf Challenge’s drive to make an impact in the local community beyond just the week of the tournament. The school will be using the money to buy a photocopier. They were extremely grateful, but not even Stone could’ve predicted the extent of this.
When the 24-year-old walked into the school’s courtyard, the cheer that erupted was beyond anything a man who has won two European Tour events, represented South Africa at the Olympics and played in two Majors this year has experienced.
As he walked through the throng of students, one of them shouted out a poem she had written for him: “Mr Stone...the king of golf...the man who hits for us...the swing of the man is excellent...Brandon...keep winning...keep winning,” she shouted.
And just before he sat down behind the podium, another student hugged him, bursting into tears as she held onto him for a few minutes at least.
“That was very emotional,” said a visibly moved Stone afterwards. “I don’t think winning the Masters would have a cheer that meant that much to me.”
Stone says it was exactly the kind of reality check he needed right now.
“When you come to places like this you realise how fortunate you are. I’ve been struggling on the golf course the last couple of weeks. I was on the phone with my mother the other day and telling her I just feel down the whole time. Then you come here and you see the smiles on these children’s faces. They have nothing. You can’t tell me they’ve even got R50 in their banks accounts. But they’ve got these big smiles on their faces.
“Pardon my French, but it shows you how full of s*@t we are at times. We take so much for granted. We complain about the temperature of our cappuccinos for goodness sake. Those kids are just happy if they have a school uniform for the year. None of the problems you go through on a golf course compares with this.
“I’m in the fortunate position of having a roof over my head, living comfortably and traveling the world. When you see kids like this, you realise that South Africa is an incredible country, but there is still so much more we can do to help. To see what Nedbank’s charity golf day has done for them – R100 000 for this community is a fortune. I hope it helps the school go from strength to strength.”
The school principal, Thomas Rankeng, pledged all of their support behind Stone as he competes in this week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City.
“These people have no reason to support me,” said Stone. “Me growing up here is one thing, but they don’t have to be so welcoming as they were today. I’m a normal kid from Rustenburg so it was so overwhelming to experience this.”
But they do have a reason to support Stone.
As one of the school’s educators, Sebole Kagiso, said, “Brandon is from Rustenburg. He is a son of the soil.”
And the soil here is rich beyond measure.