How Important is Talent?
Does Talent Bring Success?
How Important is Chemistry?
How Do We Learn to Become Winners?

Whether it is a sports team or a company, contracting or signing the best talent tends to improve the likelihood of success.  But whilst ‘owning’ the best talent can be an enormously influential factor, talent alone does not always ensure success.  There are a variety of factors that can impact success or failure for that matter.  Let’s consider some scenarios.

Let’s start with talent associated with KeNako.  If the best young golfing talents in South Africa had the opportunity to attend KeNako Academy, the academy’s name would consistently be up in lights and the perceived achievements relating to the academy would be greatly enhanced.  Boosted not only because of the greater talent pool but heightened because the already established talent would be evolving ever greater skills.  Reality though is that this is not the case.  KeNako Academy receives no funding and no Institutional or Corporate support.  The KeNako Academy offering, as things currently stand, can only be afforded by a select few families.  Offering the best comes with associated costs.  This in turn limits the potential talent intake.  But this limitation also highlights the quality of the KeNako Academy program; how it is making a difference and dramatically improving performance and life skills without having access to all talent; and why KeNako can make a huge difference to all young players, including the current top-ranked players in South Africa, if a way can be found to accommodate them into the KeNako Academy program.  If this could happen the future resources of golf in South Africa would be greatly enhanced!  Future Champions, future Major winners and future Olympic Medallists can be trained and nurtured.  And they will come from all walks of life and all cultures and creeds.  In KeNako’s case talent is nurtured and developed.

Let’s consider the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation (EEF), which effectively closed its doors at Fancourt in June 2009, but whose contracted players remain in the limelight.  Are these players successful because of their talent or because of the EEF program?

General perceptions are that the EEF is still open and operating as a daily functioning Foundation at Fancourt.  An example of this is a feature article this past month in the 18th April 2013 edition of the ‘You’ magazine in which the late Corrie Sanders’ son Dean expresses a desire to attend Ernie’s Golf School at Fancourt.  Fact is that the EEF at Fancourt has been closed for almost 4 years.  Sadly, the EEF has manipulated perceptions.  An example of this was a feature insert on the EEF at Fancourt in the European Tour Weekly TV program shown on SuperSport immediately after last year’s Volvo Golf Champions European Tour event that was played at Fancourt – an insert that was broadcast to tens of millions of people around the world showing 3 to 4 year old footage of kids at the EEF at Fancourt as if it was current.  Both the EEF and Fancourt received undue benefit and recognition with inherent brand value benefits. Perhaps this enhanced their ability to raise further funding….?

The reality is that the EEF does contribute to junior golf, but not via a daily hands-on student training program, but rather by assisting already successful young talents with some funds and equipment.  The EEF has for the past few years identified and contracted the best young golfing talents in South Africa on an annual basis; they continue to stay at home and do whatever it was that helped them to achieve success in the first instance; they wear the EEF logo on their shirts; Callaway via the EEF gives these players golf clubs; a small stipend is paid to each player for some weekly coaching; and the top players receive assistance relating to travel and accommodation costs to selected national tournaments.  Despite perceptions to the contrary, very few of these players are development players and in any event the SA Golf Development Board pays costs associated with the development players – including those wearing the EEF badge.  The EEF players are simply the top young golfing talents in South Africa.  At the end of each and every tournament the EEF claims credit for the performances of their players when in actual fact the EEF has had little to do with their actual performance.  They simply ‘own’ the top talents in the country and they then take the credit for their performances.  This EEF reference shows that in this instance it is ‘owning’ the talent that is making the difference – to the EEF and not necessarily to the development of the young talents themselves.  Imagine how much more advanced this talent would be in a proper program within an academy scenario that offers a total golf technical, physical, mental and life skills package!

But… bringing a group of talented young players into an academy will not in itself guarantee success.  It is vital that they function within a structured, disciplined, respectful and happy environment, led by high quality professionals and individuals.

Within a group or within a team or in an organisation one can have the best talents, but they can have a discordant chemistry that can be disruptive and a negative influence amongst peers.   This can create disharmony and dissatisfaction, leading to frustration, demotivation and even failure rather than the success that had initially appeared certain for the blossoming talent.  This formula is a flammable one that can lead to talent going up in flames.  It is something to be avoided and if it does raise its ugly head it needs to be dealt with, quickly and, as tough as it may be, ruthlessly.

Unlike a team sport like soccer, golf is an individual sport.  A soccer player who isn’t a team player but a troublesome individual – one who is perhaps argumentative or insulting to his team-mates or who always wants to be the centre of attention – will soon be identified within the team environment and such person’s negative influence comes to the fore.  He or she disrupts the team ethos.  In this respect a golf academy is more like a business environment.  The disruption can be a continuous undercurrent within the entire system and unless addressed it can destroy the smile on one’s face; one’s appetite for the game or the task at hand; and for the challenge that lies ahead.  In both cases the negative behaviour saps the morale of peers and it can fuel resentment and mistrust, making it very difficult for individuals to flourish or for the greater progress of the entire unit.  There comes a time where the negatives outweigh the positives and no matter how great the talent it can be wasted.

The learning?  A group of talents living and/or working together does not always guarantee success.  Respect for one’s peers linked to a positive team spirit forms an integral part of the success formula.

Another key element relates to a successful team or organisation being greater than the sum of the parts.  Even when a group of talents is living and working successfully together and getting along well, failure can be just around the corner.  Why is this?  It can relate to leadership or rather a lack of leadership.  Within a team or an organisation, leaders and leadership roles need to be identified, defined and respected.  Attitudes and application need to complement each other.  Competition must be healthy and respectful.  Even if one is trying to beat one’s peers, one can still support them, encourage them and show respect.  Such behaviour builds a good attitude, confidence and it will lead to success.  This is a good example of talent alone not always being able to do it.

One can become a winner without having the best natural talent.  Success can be achieved with:

  • Training and Tenacity;
  • Application;
  • Learning;
  • Effort and Enthusiasm;
  • Never-say-die Attitude;
  • Targets;

These elements, linked to aspects such as focus and fortitude; personality and passion; nous and nutrition; can allow what could be considered an average talent to become a champion.  They are some of the ingredients that make Talent.

Is talent grown and developed rather than being born naturally….?!

At the KeNako Academy we believe that we are making a difference and the results being achieved endorse this statement!  KeNako Academy is still in its infancy, yet KeNako’s students are starting to make an impact.  The impact is measurable.  The growth and development of the students; in golf but also in other aspects of life; has been phenomenal.

An interesting example of KeNako’s ability to grow and nurture talent relates to a young boy who was brought into the academy as a 13 year old at the beginning of 2012.  He previously formed part of the SAGDB program, which is a program that plays a positive role in developing the game of golf amongst people whose access to golf is or was previously limited.  The SAGDB program allows youngsters an opportunity to develop a love for the game of golf and if they stay with the program it is able to develop their talent to a point.

Back to our young boy…. he was taken in by KeNako and he has enjoyed a total upliftment in his life.  Better education, healthier nutrition, superior physical conditioning, improved mental skills and substantially upgraded living conditions.  This is no slight on his family – they are a good family and very proud of their son.  They are simply a family with limited resources.  Just over one year ago this boy was part of a group of SAGDB youngsters who were pretty much of a muchness.  All had learnt to play the game of golf reasonably well and there was some commonality about their ability and their shortcomings.  After just one year the gulf between this boy and his erstwhile SAGDB peers is substantial.  On the golf course this now 14 year old has shown dramatic improvement and is amongst the best of his generation, not only in his home province but in South Africa.  Did he have more talent than his SAGDB peers or has his similar talent level simply been able to prosper because of the opportunity that has been presented to him whilst living fulltime at the KeNako Academy?

If this boy was to now join the EEF he would revert to living at home.  What would happen to him?  His chances of ultimate success would be substantially diminished.  Think about it:

  • Poor (relative to those achieving ultimate success) and more threatening living environment
  • Sub-optimal nutrition
  • No daily training facilities – golf, physical and mental
  • Nobody monitoring his discipline and his progress on a daily basis
  • Lack of professional support
  • Easier influence to negative outside powers

This boy’s excellent progress has been noticed and he was approached by the EEF to join them.  Fortunately the boy himself recognised that this was not a good step and he declined the approach.  Surely the best interests of the development of golf and the individuals concerned should be considered before the ‘glory’ of an organisation?  Talent must be cultivated in the best possible way.

The head of the EEF recently stated that “there is a distinct lack of ‘black’ talented golfers who qualified for the program…”  Perhaps the above-mentioned example proves otherwise?  Contracting the already proven best available talents every year and offering ‘benefits’ from a distance is the easy way out (it also saves substantial costs) and progress will be slower and more limited.  Is such process truly building the game of golf, helping to identify new talent and serving to ensure the development of that new talent?

What is the EEF program?  Is there really a lack of black talented golfers or is the problem rather that there is still a limited pool of young black golfers and/or that interested young black golfers haven’t really been given the proper opportunity to succeed as yet?

Is talent natural or developed?  Hugely successful Korean golfer KJ Choi was a power lifter as a boy and only started playing golf late in his teens.  How did he or anybody else know that he had talent for golf?  Perhaps KJ Choi’s example proves that talent is (or can be) developed?  Does this example show that it is really about encouraging participation, then identifying enthusiasm and ultimately offering those genuinely interested the best opportunity to succeed?  Golfing talent can be uncovered, nurtured and developed and it has nothing to do with race or culture.  Why are the Chinese, who have historically not played golf, suddenly coming to the fore as a golfing nation?  It is because they have embraced golf as a game and as a career opportunity and they are encouraging young people to play the game and to take it seriously.  The talent is being developed in specialised academies, not at home.

Why do the top Olympic nations of the world identify the best talents and then bring them into a central Olympic Training Centre, with participants in each different sporting discipline receiving specialised training in specialised facilities?  They live and train in a dedicated centre of excellence surrounded by like-minded individuals.  Their progress is monitored daily; they pursue a specified daily training routine; they work together with a team of professional experts; and they are kept motivated within a proud facility and a motivating environment.

Back to the beginning….  How Important is Talent?  Does Talent Bring Success?  How Important is Chemistry? 

How Do We Learn to Become Winners?

ke nako – the time has come!

Skills for Life.

Ron Boon



Ron Boon