Gary Pouponneau has become the third Seychellois professional golfer after qualifying as a Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) class A player in South Africa.
Pouponneau, who is the director of golf at the Constance Lemuria Golf Course, on the second most populated island of Praslin, successfully completed a three-year course at the Bryanston Country Club in South Africa.
He was presented his certificate earlier this month to become Seychelles’ third pro-golfer. The other two are his mentor William Weidner and Yves Edmond.
SNA spoke to Pouponneau to learn more about his future plans as a professional.
SNA: How did you make your start in golf?
GP: I started playing golf at what was previously called the Reef Golf Club attached to the Reef Hotel at that time. I was first introduced to golf by a friend of my brother. His dad was a member of the Reef Golf Club at that time. One day, he asked my brother to come and play with him at the golf course on a Sunday afternoon. We would sneak on the golf course at hole 7, which was very close to my parents’ house. The clubhouse closes around 5 pm on Sundays and at that time there was no one on the course. We took the opportunity to try and play.
Without knowing anything, we just took the golf club and try to swing it our own way. A few times we were spotted by the Golf Club Manager and we ran away as we didn’t know how to play and were just digging holes around the course. Being interested in the sport, we started to go and caddy for the players. The golf club hosted a tournament for the caddies and I was the winner of that event. As a prize, I won a membership and this is how playing golf started for me.
SNA: What have been the highlights for you in local golf tournaments?
GP: I competed in a lot of local tournaments as a junior and won lots of them, some such as the Seybrew Classic, Barclays Mug, Cable & Wireless, and match play. My most memorable win was the Club Championship.
SNA: When did you decide that you wanted to be a professional golfer?
GP: I’m very grateful to have my hobby that became a passion and now my career. Since I joined Lemuria, I’ve worked with six different golf professionals and I’ve picked up a little from everyone to better myself as I wanted to follow this path.
My goal was to one day play professionally or be a manager of a golf club. In 2011, I did a certification course in teaching and golf instruction with the South African Golf Teachers Federation (SAGTF) and was also a member of the World Golf Teachers Federation (WGTF). After successfully passing the course forfeited my amateur status and became a Teaching Pro.
Pouponneau is the director of golf at the Constance Lemuria Golf Course on Praslin. (Vanessa Lucas, Tourism Seychelles) Photo License: CC-BY
SNA: How was it training to be a pro in South Africa?
GP: The training with the PGA of South Africa was a challenging journey and fun learning. I got to explore deeper into the golfing industry. Got to meet other golfers, and make friends and contacts in this industry. I’ve discovered that there are a lot of opportunities to grow and develop your golf skills.
SNA: As a professional in the sport what are your future plans?
GP: The plan is to grow the game of golf locally by introducing it to more youths and ladies. Encourage and support the youths as they are the future of golf in Seychelles. My personal plan is to play in professional events and bring trophies.
SNA: What sacrifices have you made to get to where you are now?
GP: There’s been a lot of sacrifices and efforts during the three year-programme. Considering that you have a daily job and responsibilities that come along, a family and finding the balance and time to study and submitting assignments was a challenge. There’s been a lot of sleepless nights, even though I was taking holidays from work, I still had to keep up with the assignments and studies.
My goals from the start were to ensure I pass all my exams and follow the standards to become a fully qualified PGA Professional. I was surprised and even more proud of myself when I was announced as the runner-up for the 2022 Associates out of 33.
SNA: What would you say it takes to be a good golfer?
GP: It depends on how you define good. It takes years to be good at golf. Some people who are exceptionally talented and hard-working can learn the game in a year or so, most people will take a few years.
Golf is complicated and it involves more than just the physical side, there is a huge mental side to golf as well. It is nearly impossible to get better at golf without at least putting some time into practice. The more time you get in the better you can get and ensure that your practice is effective.
SNA: What do you think of the level of golf in Seychelles at the moment?
GP: We’ve come a long way and still have room for improvement. We do have good and talented golfers in Seychelles. To get to the next level we need to have more exposure to international competition. The more you get to play at other venues you get to test your ability with other players and help to bring your best game.
SNA: What advice do you have for young golfers from Seychelles now who want to become professionals?
GP: Should you want to make it to the Pro level, you need to be fully involved and dedicate your time to golf. There are a lot of sacrifices and as in any other sport, it requires hours and hours of practice to develop your game.
Be committed to working very hard and have self-discipline. Golf has taken a new trend in the last couple of years. To be able to make it at the highest level, players should be willing to spend hours in the gym for physical fitness but not only concentrate on their game as they need both fitness and a good golf swing to play their best.
And nutrition regimes so they make sure that every part of their body can work to swing the club as efficiently as possible. There’s also the mental part to keep the focus in order to achieve your goals.
SNA: Do you have any words of encouragement for aspiring golfers?
GP: Golf is a fascinating and interesting game; it is difficult and can be frustrating at the beginning. The most important thing is to learn to have fun and enjoy it.