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Dan Sevel’s death devastates Jewish and golfing community

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“He was a big guy with a big heart.” So say close friends of the late Dan Sevel, whose untimely death last week shocked the South African golfing and Jewish community.
by NICOLA MILTZ | Jul 19, 2018

Mystery surrounds the tragic passing of the much-loved sporting entrepreneur, who was Sun International’s sports marketing manager and the tournament director of the Nedbank Golf Challenge. Sevel, 41, died shortly after midday on Thursday, 12 July following a meeting at Sun International’s head office in Sandton. Police are investigating the unusual circumstances leading up to his death. It is believed – but not confirmed – that he leapt from the fifth floor balcony of the Sun International offices at Sandown Valley Crescent.

Police investigations are ongoing and reports of suicide have not been confirmed yet, said Sandton police station spokesperson Captain Granville Meyer. Meyer added that an inquest docket had been opened.

Meanwhile, loyal friends, colleagues and Sevel’s beloved family are clinging to his lasting memory and legacy as they grapple with his unexpected passing, which they say “came from out of nowhere”.

Heartbroken friends told the SA Jewish Report this week that they are reeling after the tragedy. “Dan never had a bad bone in his body. He was loved by everybody who knew him. It is hard to find a more kind, compassionate and humble man,” said close friend and former colleague Barney Girnun, the joint managing director of marketing agency MSC Sports, where Sevel worked for several years.

Sevel had also worked for six years in various positions at Sun International before leaving in 2007. He went back in 2015 as the sports marketing manager.

In that position, Sevel took over as tournament director of the prestigious Nedbank Golf Challenge event in 2016. He took over from Alastair Roper, who had retired after 20 years at the helm.

During Sevel’s tenure, the popular tournament at Sun City has, according to insiders, grown in stature. It is now part of the Rolex Series – the eight premium golfing events on the European Tour.

Friends described Sevel as “warm, caring, popular and happy”. He was passionate about golf, sport in general and sports development. There were no visible signs of his being depressed, say those who knew him well.

Girnun said that the sports-loving Sevel seemed in good spirits the night before his passing, and had been messaging and bantering with close friends on a WhatsApp chat group about England’s semi-final World Cup defeat against Croatia.

Only a few days prior to Sevel’s passing, Girnun’s company had held a braai in his honour at the company’s new offices in Birnam, Johannesburg. “Dan was such a humble guy. He did things quietly in the background and always steered away from the limelight. He was happy at the braai and genuinely touched by the lunch we held.”

One friend, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “There was no indication anything was going on. Dan was his usual friendly self with his big, warm smile.”

Sevel had many friends and belonged to a WhatsApp group called the Breakfast Club – which included many school friends from their King David Linksfield days – which met regularly for breakfast.

Meanwhile, tributes poured in from around the world.

On winning the Scottish Open last Sunday, the multiple European Tour winner, South African Brandon Stone, paid a moving tribute to Sevel during a press briefing. He said: “I took a little look up on the 18th fairway there, saying this one was for all the boys back home that are going to be missing you...”

Golfing icon Gary Player said: “We are all saddened and shocked. He always seemed such a happy man, whose work for Sun International was simply outstanding. He was such a gentleman who undoubtedly will be dearly missed. Dan leaves a legacy of hard work and dedication.”

South African golfer Louis Oosthuizen tweeted: “Our thoughts and prayers are with Dan Sevel’s family. RIP Dan.”

Legendary golfer and personal friend Ernie Els wrote on Twitter: “Devastated today! Dan our friend we going to miss you! Truly gutted!!”

Titch Moore, ten-time winner on the Sunshine Tour, said: “Dan Sevel, it was an honour to have known you. You will be truly missed.”

Said Merrick Bremner: “We have lost one of the finest men I have ever had the pleasure of meeting! Dan, you were larger than life, always smiling, laughing and just a joy to be around! An inspiration to us all!”

European Tour winner Dean Burmester wrote: “So sad to have to say goodbye to one of the most inspirational men I have ever come across. What you did for South Africa and a lot of young professionals was amazing. Going to miss you, Dan.”

Cricketer Vernon Philander wrote: “Shocked by the news that this champion of a human being has passed on.”

The Killarney Country Club (KCC), of which Sevel was an active member, described Sevel as a “great man”.

“He was a loyal KCC member who gave generously to members of the club, those less fortunate than him and everyone he came in contact with. Dan was a true mensch... he had a positive impact on the lives of so many.”

Five-time European Tour winner Ross Fisher added: "Very very sad to hear. Had the pleasure of spending time with Dan. Great man and fun to be around. Will be missed."

Zack Byrd, a regular on the Sunshine Tour, said: “Devastated to hear the news out of SA with the death of Dan Sevel. He was a great person and a wonderful supporter to the game of golf. His smile will truly be missed on the Sunshine Tour.”

Golfer Branden Grace tweeted: “Very sad news to hear about Dan’s passing. His friendliness knew no bounds! He was such an incredible guy.”

Olympic gold medallist Roland Schoeman tweeted: “Incredibly saddened to hear about the passing of Dan Sevel. He always went out of his way to help me and many other sportsmen and women.”

In a statement, the Sunshine Tour said: “He was more than a friend. We will miss Dan Sevel dearly. Working with him on tournaments was always an exercise filled with smiles and laughter. Golf has lost a close ally.”

Sun International described Sevel as a “kind and caring soul who always aimed to please others”.

Sun International spokesperson Zoleka Skweyiya said Sevel’s death had come as a shock to everyone at the resort hotel chain. “Dan will always be fondly remembered by us as a gentle giant and a thorough gentleman,” said Skweyiya.“He always aimed to please others. Nothing was ever too much trouble for him.”

•     Sevel is survived by his wife Louise, his son Ben, parents Dave and Linda, and his sister Lauren

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