Caddie fulfills dream of playing in big leagues
Up until about a year ago, Llewellyn Barnes, 59, was a homeless man, living on the streets of Pretoria.
In March, against all odds, he will participate alongside professional players in the Senior Tour, part of the Sunshine Golf Tour.
While originally from the Eastern Cape, after his father died when he was 10, his mother was unable to take care of him and his siblings. This resulted in him being separated from his family.
He was subsequently placed in a hostel near the Zwartkops golf course in Centurion and his sisters were placed in foster care in the Eastern Cape.
It was at Zwartkops, where Barnes’s love affair with golf began.
He would attend school in the morning and in the afternoon, he would run to the golf course looking for caddie opportunities.
“I carried my first golf bag when I was only 10.
“Those days, working as a caddie paid well.
“I was paid 30 cents 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,” he said.
At the age of 13, Barnes ran away from Zwartkops in an attempt to reconnect with his family.
However, after five years of living with various family members, Barnes said he felt like a “liability”.
As a result he returned to Zwartkops to take up a job as a caddie to make an income and provide for his basic needs.
“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 said.
In January last year, his luck started to change.
Upon hearing that he was homeless, the golf club where he was caddying offered him a storage container to live in.
Soon after, Barnes made an unlikely friend by the name of Gareth Frost, 45, who was running a “breakfast club” on Saturday mornings for the homeless.
The pair connected over their mutual love of sport and Barnes told Frost that he would like to play professional gold and needed a sponsor.
“I am used to requests from my homeless friends. They normally ask for a pair of shoes or shirts,” Frost said.
“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.
Frost then inquired with directors of the Senior Tour who advised him that for senior amateur golfers, the fastest way to get playing status in any major tournament is to make it through Qualifying School.
Frost then learned the requirements and gathered the funds for Barnes to enter Qualifying School in January. Which he subsequently achieved with a handicap of +2.
“I am so excited about the Senior Tour,” Barnes said.
“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,” he said.
Up until 5 months ago, Llewellyn Barnes (59) was a homeless man, living on the streets of Pretoria. This March, against all odds, he will participate in the Sunshine Golf Tournament amongst professional players. Support Llewellyn on Backabuddy: https://www.backabuddy.co.za/streets-to-sunshine