SA’s Sundelson at home at St Andrews
South African golfer Judd Sundelson is continuing his family’s rich golfing history. He’s the third-best university golfer in the United Kingdom this year, and placed seventh out of 72 golfers in the 73rd Boyd Quaich Memorial Tournament in Scotland in June.
“I was leading the Order of Merit for a long time and then I hurt my wrist, so I didn’t play in the last event, which made me go from first to third,” Sundelson, 21, says of his university ranking.
Sundelson, who has two Maccabi Games winners’ medals to his name, matriculated at King David Victory Park in 2020, and is now on a scholarship at the University of Nottingham in England. His score of 279 after four rounds at the Boyd Quaich was only nine shots off the winner, England’s Ben Willis of Edge Golf College.
This annual international student event hosted by the University of St Andrews at St Andrews, the Home of Golf, brought together golfers from 15 countries and 45 institutions.
“It was a great experience,” Sundelson says. “It was nice to represent the University of Nottingham. All the universities send their best players to compete.”
Sundelson says a few South Africans took part, including golfers from the University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University. “It was great to meet golfers from America, Ireland, Scotland, England, and Portugal. I wouldn’t say it was my best week on the golf course, but I still played well.”
Sundelson went into the event expecting to win. “I was probably the highest-ranked player in the field, but was battling a wrist injury that flared up on the second day because we had played 36 holes. In the last round I started bogeying and triple bogeying, which affected the round.”
Nevertheless, he ended on a positive note by shooting eight under par in the last 13 holes to finish the fourth round on 68, having been four over after the first two holes.
Sundelson’s dad, Barry, and uncle Dean also have winner’s medals for golf at the Maccabi Games. “My dad played professionally and is this year’s Houghton Club Champs winner. My grandfather Neville was a great amateur golfer. My uncle Dean played for Gauteng and won many Cub Champs.” The three all inspired Sundelson to take up golf.
“I would go with my dad on the weekends to play nine holes and then, from around the age of 11 to 17, I would go to the World of Golf every week to have lessons with my grandfather, who was a coach there.
“I was in Israel when my uncle won the golf category at the Maccabi Games. I was seven years old at the time. I remember the excitement of him winning and I set a big goal to achieve the same feat. Eight years later, I won the junior golf category at the Maccabi Games in Israel, as a 15-year-old in 2017.”
Sundelson previously won this category at the Maccabi Games in South Africa when he was 13. He has won other tournaments in South Africa and Scotland.
He continued playing golf for Gauteng, progressing from junior to senior level. After matriculating, he was hoping to get a scholarship. “I received golf scholarships from the United States and England. I decided to come to England as my friends were going to Nottingham.”
The University of Nottingham awarded him a gold scholarship, its highest level of scholarship, which he received mainly for his golfing ability. His academic results counted a small portion towards it. “About only four students at the university are on gold scholarships,” he says.
“I also get sponsorships from the Royal and Ancient [Golf Club of St Andrews] each year to play tournaments. Every golfer’s dream is to visit the Home of Golf. Even though I was there for the seventh time, it was still a surreal feeling.”
Sundelson has a plus-five handicap, which he says has taken a lot of hard work and dedication to attain. “The whole of high school I just played golf,” he says, “but King David always supported me. When I missed class for golf tournaments, the teachers would help me, and the principal was very accommodating with it.”
Now he juggles university with practising five days a week and golf gym training twice a week.
“I love being by myself on the golf course with my thoughts and without distractions from the outside world. I love playing golf, the adrenaline and excitement, and trying to get better every day.”
He says adjusting to life in England has been hard. “The weather’s colder. It’s not as easy to play golf, so if you want to play, you really have to want to. I’ve done a lot of missioning up and down on trains to get to golf tournaments. It isn’t easy, but it’s definitely worth it.”
Sundelson hopes to have a successful career in golf or business.
“I’m incredibly proud of Judd,” his dad says. “I love watching how he approaches the game and how differently to me he plays. He plays golf his way. He has wonderful vision and ability. He has taken the best from all of us [me, Neville, and Dean], and he’s worked hard to do his best. My father, Neville, has helped Judd so much with his game.”
Interestingly, at the 2021 Club Champs, Sundelson came first, his dad placed second, and his dad’s brother (uncle Dean) rounded off the top three.
“Golf has been a blessing for our family as it’s enabled us to spend meaningful time together,” Barry says. “Golf has allowed us to travel to fantastic places and meet incredible people. There’s lots of healthy competition and banter in our immediate and extended family, not only with my brothers but with my father-in-law too.”