To be stripped of a parents’ love and nurture before turning one and going on to underperform continuously in school is enough to throw any child into a deep depression hole.
Quite the opposite happened, however, to Thandiwe Pringle, 20, whose plight pushed her towards an unimaginable dream of becoming a golfer and earning a place in the Special Olympics SA national team set to compete in Abu Dhabi in March.
Pringle lost both her parents when she was just seven months and was forced to move from Nelspruit [now Mbombela in Mpumalanga] to her grandmother’s home in Tsakane on the East Rand.
“It was such a difficult time for me growing up without my parents,” she said. “I still miss them now and my grandmother would show me pictures of my mom and tell me stories about her … that’s how I remember her.”
After continuously receiving discouraging results at school, it was discovered that Pringle had a mental disability.
She then started attending Matshidiso LSEN [pupils with special educational needs] School in Tsakane where she opted to specialise in sport instead of skills programmes, which included bricklaying and carpentry.
When the school announced it was looking for golfers in 2017, Pringle was first in line.
And it was while learning the sport under the mentorship of coach Juliana Mbhele that she fell in love with it and decided she wanted to become a professional golfer to prove everyone else wrong.
She said: “Golf was life changing for me and it has opened many doors for me. Even my neighbour asked me to play it with him, something he never did before.”
Mbhele, a teacher and golf coach at Matshidiso School, said Pringle had gone through a series of competitions over the past two to three years before entering a major competition and winning a place on the national team.
“I am very proud of her,” she said. “She worked really hard and she has really progressed over the last three years despite the lack of proper golf facilities in our school. She is the third one of my players who’s been chosen to play for the national team.
“The others were chosen for the previous Special Olympics. I fell in love with the sport when I was growing up but I never had the facilities. Now it feels good to pass it on to my pupils.”
Beaming with excitement, Pringle said: “Yoh! I am so speechless, I don’t even know what to say. It will be my first time in a plane so I am so excited. And my mom will be proud of me …”