Tania Fourie – Professional Golfer was frightened to death of the man seated opposite her. And when Ashley Head’s, (the Vice President of MasterCard at the time), face dropped as she asked him for a R40 000 sponsorship for one of the tournaments on the first professional golf tour for women in South Africa, she was about ready to jump out of his window.
“I thought, ‘Oh no, I’ve asked him for too much’,” she recalls. Head stood up and told Fourie to sit in his chair. He moved around the desk and took up a seat in hers. “Right,” he said, “now I’m going to show you how to make a successful sponsorship presentation”.
She left with R120 000 for the first of four professional women’s tournaments on the inaugural tour in 1999. In four years, Fourie has grown the tour – now under the umbrella sponsorship of the Nedbank Women’s Golf Tour – to R1-million in total prize money.
And the woman recognised as the face of and driving force behind the women’s game in this country has also just clinched the first Women’s World Cup of Golf for South Africa for the next three years, beginning at Fancourt in 2005 and of which she will be the Tournament Director.
“I think what drives me is that I want to make a difference, whatever that is,” says Fourie. “I don’t know what that difference is, so I just keep going. You think you’ve succeeded in something and then you realise there’s another bridge to cross. I realise I’m never getting to the top of the mountain. “But one of the great milestones for me will be when I can put the Women’s World Cup of Golf to bed successfully.”
Tania Fourie – Professional Golfer
Fourie began her journey to this point 21 years ago.
After growing up in Caledon, she married and started playing golf while living in Tzaneen. Her first major amateur tournament was what was then known as the Transvaal Open, played at Randpark Golf Club. And that’s where she met long-time business partner and celebrated professional golfer, Lesley Copeman.
“I was still new in the game and was an eight or nine handicap. I remember being in the locker room and someone said to me, ‘Oh, the girl you’re playing with today is a Springbok golfer’, and I just had an absolute heart attack,” says Fourie in the colourful language and forthrightness she is famous for.
“I arrived at the first tee and this girl, Lesley, was carrying her own bag. She introduced herself with a great big smile and shook my hand, and then she sang for the entire 18 holes.
I was so nervous, but we both qualified and I think she went on to win the tournament. But that’s where our friendship started, and we’re still business partners to this day.”
Fourie went on to gain her Springbok colours in golf and turned professional in 1995. She played briefly in Asia then spent a year on the LPGA Tour as Sally Little’s manager and caddie, before taking up her clubs again and returning to Asia.
It was on her second trip to the East that Fourie envisioned a similar women’s tour in South Africa.
She returned and immediately set about successfully creating and positioning the Nedbank Women’s Golf Tour as the premier women’s tour in Africa.
“But then the bug bit me to do an international event. I saw there was no such thing as a Women’s World Cup of Golf. The LPGA and the Robe di Kappa Ladies European Tour (LET) had had their own World Cups, but just for the players on their Tours. So I started negotiating with the LPGA and LET about hosting a true World Cup for all the world’s top golfers, and they said yes.”
It’s often been said that if Fourie could bottle her enthusiasm, she’d have the next great elixir on the market: “I am motivated by the fact that as women we can make a difference. I received a lot of help starting out, and when it comes to women’s golf it’s very important that women help each other.”
But the batteries do run flat now and again. “For relaxation I sleep. I try and play a bit of social golf, and I love going to the movies. Love stories are my favourite.”
Tania Fourie – Professional Golfer
And don’t be fooled by the power suits and razor-sharp business acumen. Fourie also has her weaknesses.
“I love soaps like the Bold and Beautiful. They take you into a fantasy world of what may be possible.”
Strangely, her one great mission in life has nothing to do with golf.
“I want to travel South Africa. I want to get to know every little dorpie there is. Too often, when we’ve got the time, we buy a plane ticket oversees, and I just think there’s so much to see in our own country.”
Tania has also taken up flying lessons has quite a few hours behind her.
Tania is now available through Speakers Inc.
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