Papwa Sewgolum Golf Course is located along the lush green slopes of the Umgeni River in Durban. Almost unbelievably, a sprawling informal settlement exists just meters from the tee for the 6 hole. A low-slung concrete fence separates the tin shacks from the carefully manicured fairways.
In a twist of irony, the golf course is named after an apartheid-era golfer of Indian descent, named Sewsunker “Papwa” Sewgolum. Papwa Sewgolum was an excellent self-taught golfer, with no formal schooling. He is famous for his reversed, cross-handed grip (called the “Sewsunker” grip even today). But he is possibly most famous for beating Gary Player and winning the 1965 Natal Open.
The Natal Open was held at the Durban Country Club, which at the time did not allow non-whites into the clubhouse. Sewgolum won the tournament, the only non-white in a field of 113 players. At the time of the prize-giving, he had to receive his trophy outside, in the pouring rain, while the white players sat comfortably inside. The pictures of him in the rain were broadcast around the world, resulting in an international outcry and a number of countries imposing sanctions on South African sporting events.
Just as his career looked as if it would take off, the South African government banned him from all local tournaments, and also withdrew his passport, preventing him from competing abroad. He died impoverished in 1978, at age 50, from a heart attack.