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Marathon golfer does his bit

NMMU golfer Mike Usendorff put his money where his mouth is to spend nearly 10 hours playing golf last year, raising funds for the Ernie Els For Autism Charitable Foundation as well as the KPMG Madibaz Golf Club.

Driven by a need to give back to others, the 24-year-old player, in the final year of his marketing degree at NMMU, teed off at 7am and staggered off the Humewood course nine hours and 45 minutes later with 200 holes under his belt.

This month Usendorff, who now works in Port Elizabeth, saw the fruits of his labours when he was able to donate a total of R46 000 to the relevant parties, which was split equally.

The son of former Eastern Province amateur player Dave, who is well-known in television circles as a golf presenter, Usendorff said he had wanted to continue the legacy started by his father.

"Way back in the 1980s, when my dad was at NMMU (then UPE), he set up a marathon playing, I think, 256 holes in about 13 hours," he said.

Usendorff, who was part of the Madibaz team which won the University Sport South Africa golf title last year, said it was a lot about giving back to someone "who needs it a bit more than myself".

He added that South African professional and four-time major winner Ernie Els had been a role model for many young golfers.

"He is a friend of my dad so he has been a big part of our lives and what he has done to help young children is phenomenal. That's why I wanted to support the Els for Autism Charitable Foundation.

"The main thing was giving back to the community, but also challenging my dad in a way, to show I could continue the Usendorff legacy."

Although he started playing golf when he was 13, Usendorff said a hernia problem sidelined him for two years and he only resumed the sport seriously in the last two years.

Playing off a handicap of three, he said the target was to get in 180 holes for the day. He ended up exceeding the target, averaging about 53 minutes per round.

"I could only tee-off at 7am because of the light in April and I finished at 4.45. One of the challenges is that you can only use five clubs and obviously the aim is to go through as many holes as possible.

"I had a new person driving the cart for each round and I kept my scores for every round."

After suffering a back injury the day before the marathon, Usendorff had to have an injection before he started.

He said he warmed up after a few holes but by the time he got to about 100 holes he was feeling "absolutely exhausted".

"I was shattered mentally and physically, but that's when my team-mates stepped in to encourage me. I also kept thinking of the kids who would benefit and that kept me going.

"A bit later my girlfriend arrived and that really gave me a boost because I did not want to let her down."

Usendorff sold the day by getting sponsors to back him for a certain amount per hole he played or by giving a donation to his cause.

Thanks to wide support from a variety of backers, Usendorff said he had definitely achieved his objectives.

"In fact, I feel I exceeded my expectations," he said.

He did, though, pay a price for his efforts.

"I had to go to a chiropractor for therapy for two months before I was able to play golf again," he said.



Madibaz deputy director Petrus Boukes (right) hands over R23 000 to Mike Usendorff for the Els For Autism Charitable Foundation. The funds were generated through Usendorff's golf marathon at Humewood last year, with R23 000 also being raised for the KPMG Madibaz Golf Club. Photo: Melissa Awu

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