Golf is commonly known as ‘the gentlemen’s game’. While this may conjure up images of older men discussing mergers, acquisitions and the like while traversing 18 holes, gentlemen need not refer solely to this archetype. It could refer to a younger lad with charm, charisma on, and off, the course. Meet Santiago dos Santos!

The first thing that would strike a ‘grown-up’ about Santiago, or Santi, as he is called by his friends and family, is that he is incredibly mature. In fact, I chatted to him on his 14th birthday, he informs me with a slight chuckle. We would get onto the greens in a moment, Santiago assured me, as he began sharing his love of sports.

It turns out that Santiago started out kicking, not driving, a ball. “Soccer, that was the first sport I played when we lived in Johannesburg. I liked it because it kept me fast, and active,” he shares. “When I was eight years old, I also got into motocross at a regional and national level, but I had to stop briefly when I broke my arm. Once it was healed, I rode again.”

A four-year-old Santiago first learned of golf when his father, Marco, would take him to a driving range to hit a few balls. “There was a place called Huddle Park with a really cool restaurant where our family liked to hang out. So, we would go and have breakfast by the dam and then my father would get a bucket of balls for us to hit at the driving range. I was only four, but I loved it,” Santiago recalls. “I think I started to take golf seriously around seven or eight years old.”

Seriously, indeed.

At seven years old, Santiago played in the local South African Kids’ Golf Tournament and, by the time he turned 11, made the KwaZulu-Natal team for three consecutive years. He has also represented GolfRSA for two years, played the Euro Champs in Scotland in 2021, and won the African Open at San Lameer, recently.

One of Simbithi’s youngest members, Santiago names the 17th as his favourite hole. “It can be very tough because of the water, but especially when it’s windy. I like the challenge,” he says. “Simbithi is a great course to play because it’s a par-3, so it helps you improve your chipping and putting. On Simbithi, you use more irons than woods and drivers.”

While golf is his first love, Santiago’s calendar is not short on sporting activities: the Clifton School learner also plays hockey, soccer and swims for his school…and, of course, is on their golf team, too! In his spare time, he enjoys fishing, playing soccer with his friends, and the occasional game of tennis.

The future golf professional has just one tip for younger (and older) golfers who are starting out. “You must be disciplined and have patience. Golf is not the easiest sport, but it’s rewarding, if you are willing to put in the work and be dedicated. Then, you’ll see your game improve.”