Sewsunker Sewgolum

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Sewsunker "Papwa" Sewgolum
Personal information
Born(1928-12-12)12 December 1928
Died5 July 1978(1978-07-05) (aged 49)
Height5 ft 4 in (163 cm)
Nationality South Africa
ResidenceNatal Province, South Africa
Professional wins6
Best results in major championships
Masters TournamentDNP
PGA ChampionshipDNP
U.S. OpenDNP
The Open Championship13th: 1963

Sewsunker "Papwa" Sewgolum (OIS) (12 December 1928 – 5 July 1978)[1][2] was a South African professional golfer of ethnic Indian origin, who carved a niche for himself in golfing folklore when he became the first golfer of colour to win a provincial open in South Africa. He became a symbol of the sports boycott movement when pictures of him receiving his trophy outdoors in the rain were published across the world: due to apartheid, he was not allowed to enter the clubhouse.

Personal life[edit]

Sewgolum began his career as a caddie. He had five children with his wife, Suminthra.[3]


Sewgolum was a caddie for amateur golfer Graham Wulff. Impressed by Sewgolum's great talents, Wulff arranged for him to try to qualify for the 1959 Open Championship and participate in the Dutch Open that summer. Sewgolum qualified for the Open Championship when he shot a 71[4] and won the Dutch Open.[5] He would go on to successfully defend his championship the following year.[6] He was noted for his unconventional grip, holding the club with his right hand above the left.[2]

In 1961, Sewgolum was the first non-white to take part in the South African Open. Just two years after he broke the color barrier he finished second, losing by one shot to Afrikaner Retief Waltman.[3]

Later in 1963, he caused a stir when he beat 103 white golfers, including Harold Henning, at the Natal Open.[3][6]:264 He was the first non-white person to win an event on the South Africa circuit. He also performed admirably later in the summer at the 1963 Open Championship, shooting 71-74-73-72 to finish in solo 13th. Among the many South African golfers at the event, Gary Player was the only one to score better than Sewgolum, beating him by three shots.[7] It was Sewgolum's best ever finish in a major. The next year he won the Dutch Open for the third and final time. He also won the 1964 Cock of the North, an event in Zambia.

In 1965, he won the Natal Open for the second time, defeating runner-up Gary Player. Even more famous than his victory, however, was the trophy presentation. Sewgolum was forced to accept the trophy outside of Durban Country Club in the rain. Colored and black people were not allowed in the clubhouse, otherwise the club could lose its liquor license.[5] Sewgolum's performance received worldwide attention and was covered by The New York Times.[8] He would return to defend his championship in February 1966 but would finish in fourth place with a score of 292, six behind Player.[9] The following year, in 1967, Sewgolum would nearly win the Dutch Open for the fourth time, finishing two behind England's Peter Townsend.[10]

In addition to his achievements in mainstream events, Sewgolum was also the winner of a number of non-white golfing championships in South Africa. His success embarrassed the apartheid government, however, and he was ultimately banned from playing golf or even entering a golf course as a spectator.[11][12] Sewgolum would die impoverished in 1978 at the age of 48.[5]

Professional wins[edit]

South African circuit wins (3)[edit]

European circuit wins (3)[edit]

Honours and awards[edit]

  • Sewgolum received a posthumous achievement award from President Thabo Mbeki in 2003, the Silver Medal in the Order of Ikhamanga.[6]:264
  • Durban has a golf course named after him. The Papwa Sewgolum Municipal Golf Course is an 18-hole flat woodland course situated in the suburb of Reservoir Hills.[13]
  • Film: Papwa: The Lost Dream of a South African Golfing Legend (2005)[14]
  • Book: Papwa: Golf's Lost Legend (2015) by Maxine Case[15]

Results in major championships[edit]

Tournament 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970
The Open Championship CUT CUT 13 CUT 53 CUT

Note: Sewgolum only played in The Open Championship.

  Did not play

CUT = missed the half-way cut
"T" = tied


  1. ^ Urquhart, Craig (15 March 2014). "3: Papwa". The Kings of Swing: Behind the Scenes with South Africa's Golfing Greats Paperback. Random House Struik. ISBN 978-1770226326.
  2. ^ a b "'Papwa Sewgolum' dies in Durban". The Glasgow Herald. 6 July 1978. p. 15.
  3. ^ a b c Vlismas, Michael (2012). The Extraordinary Book of South African Golf. Penguin UK. ISBN 9780143529729.
  4. ^ Corcoran, Michael (2010). Duel in the Sun: Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus in the Battle of Turn. Simon and Schuster. p. 224. ISBN 9781439141922.
  5. ^ a b c "'Papwa' Sewgolum: little known great". Brand South Africa. 4 September 2005. Retrieved 24 September 2019.
  6. ^ a b c Mallon, Bill; Jerris, Randon (2011). Historical Dictionary of Golf. Scarecrow Press. p. 864. ISBN 9780810874657.
  7. ^ Horne, Cyril (13 July 1963). "Final Aggregates". The Glasgow Herald.
  8. ^ "Gary Player Ties for Second". The New York Times. AP. 20 February 1966. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  9. ^ "Player Shoots a 72 for 286 To Take South African Golf". The New York Times. AP. 7 February 1966. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  10. ^ "Townsend is Dutch Open champion". The Glasgow Herald. 25 July 1967. p. 4.
  11. ^ "Sewsunker 'Papwa' Sewgolum | South African History Online". Retrieved 17 August 2020.
  12. ^ Presidency Communications Research Document: The National Orders Awards (PDF). Office of the President of the Republic of South Africa. October 2004.
  13. ^ "Golf In The Days Of Black & White". Golf Digest. Retrieved 10 July 2020.
  14. ^ "Papwa: The Lost Dream of a South African Golfing Legend (2005)".
  15. ^ Case, Maxine. (2015). Papwa : golf's lost legend. Kwela. ISBN 978-0-7957-0711-7. OCLC 945775459.

External links[edit]