Homeless golf caddie needs your help after making it into pro tournament
Despite being fortunate enough to qualify for the tournament, Llewellyn Barnes has one more big hurdle to overcome - raising the funds to play.
JOHANNESBURG - Growing up orphaned, homeless and with barely any formal education, no one ever imagined that Llewellyn Barnes (59) would one day go from being a caddie on Gauteng golf courses to competing as a pro in a tournament.
Barnes spent many of his childhood years in a hostel on Zwartkops golf course in Centurion while his sisters, whom he'd been separated from after their father died, were placed in foster care in the Eastern Cape.
His love for golf was born on the Zwartkops golf course when he would attend school in the mornings and head to the golf course in the afternoons.
"I carried my first golf bag when I was only 10 years old. Those days, working as a caddie paid well. I was paid 30c for a day’s work, enough to buy bread and a cold drink. This is where my love for the game started. I dreamed that one day I would become a professional golfer," Barnes said.
As a teen, he ran away from Zwartkops after suffering abuse and found himself in Durban, sleeping in an old minibus and selling newspapers to support himself.
He later was reunited with mother in the Eastern Cape but after again suffering abuse in the home with an alcoholic mom and stepfather, he went to stay with his grandmother, aunt and cousins in East London.
Years later, Barnes returned to work as a caddie on the Zwartkops golf course.
"You don’t need to be educated when you are a caddie, you just need to know the game. I caddied for a couple of years, sleeping under a tree after a day on the golf course. On cold winter nights, the other caddies and I would make huge fires to stay warm. It wasn’t fun and it wasn’t easy, but we made it through together," he explained.
On days when work was slow, Llewellyn would dive into the Hennops river, even on cold winter mornings, in search of golf balls he could sell.
“Sometimes you were lucky, in the summer when the floods would come, you would find hundreds of balls under the bridge. On days where I couldn’t find any balls, I would have nothing to eat.”
At the age of 25, Barnes found himself again with nowhere to go when the golf course underwent renovations and became a golf estate, forcing him to live on the streets again.
"Life on the streets was tough but I had to manage. I had no one to look up to, no one to complain to. I had no family, no place to call home and I was alone. At night I would pray that the Tsotsies wouldn’t kill me. I slept with one eye open, waiting for the morning."
In January 2019, while caddying at another golf club, Barnes was offered a storage container to stay in. This is when his fortunes turned around.
Barnes then met Gareth Frost who was running a breakfast club on Saturday mornings for the homeless at Weirda bridge.
The pair connected through their mutual love of sport and in time formed a special and unbreakable bond. After breakfast one morning, Barnes took a leap of faith and told Frost that he could play professional golf and all he needed was a sponsor.
"I am used to requests from my homeless friends. They normally ask for a pair of shoes or shirts. When Llewellyn asked if I would like to sponsor him because he believed he could play professional golf, I didn’t think he was serious. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that there could be something special about this guy and I thought God was speaking to me," Frost said.
Through external help, Frost was able to get Barnes help in getting into Qualifying School in January, a requirement to get playing status in any major tournament.
Barnes has now qualified as a professional golfer with provisional exception to participate in the Senior Tour, a major professional tournament part of the Sunshine Golf Tour.
THE ROAD TO THE SENIOR TOUR
Despite being fortunate enough to qualify for the tournament, Barnes has one more big hurdle to overcome - raising the funds to play.
Travelling and lodging costs, as well as new attire and a new set of golf clubs, are his biggest needs and thus, he's turned to crowdfunding for help.
The crowdfunding campaign on BackaBuddy was launched on 8 February and has so far raised a total of R6,211.96 towards the fundraising target of R 45,000.00 with contributions from seven donors.
“I am so excited about the Senior Tour. The chance to show my true colours means the world to me. It has always been my dream to participate in a proper tournament against professional players. This is an opportunity for me to let go of the weight of my past and look to a new future. My only focus is the game now and I am practising to be at my best," he said.