As he stood in a muddy field neighboring one of South Africa's poorest squatter settlements on a rainy afternoon last summer, Peter Biehl first came face-to-face with the Hidden Golfers of Khayelitsha. The field serves as a makeshift course for about 30 squatters from Khayelitsha, a sprawl of shacks where unemployment is estimated to be almost 50%. With a ragged collection of old clubs and balls culled from trash bins, junkyards and swap meets, the golfers travel from vacant lot to vacant lot, hitting balls toward imaginary greens, sinking putts in holes they have dug into the earth and conducting informal after-school golf clinics for Khayelitsha's activity-starved children.
Biehl is the father of Amy Biehl, the Stanford swimmer and Fulbright scholar who was stabbed to death in 1993 while running from a mob in South Africa, where she had been working as an advocate for racial and gender equality. Since his daughter's death, Biehl and his wife, Linda, have traveled often to South Africa, where they have organized several charitable projects through the Amy Biehl Foundation. During one of these trips Peter heard of the Hidden Golfers. In July a photographer friend who knew the golfers set up the meeting. "They play in the fields," says Biehl. "Sometimes their balls find the settlement's few plate-glass windows. When that happens, they become hidden."
The group's leaders—Thembisile Gamzana, Gregory Gonbe and Vusi Sixhasa—told Biehl of their dream to have a permanent teaching spot in the settlement, which is on Cape Flats, just east of Cape Town. When Biehl returned to the U.S., he contacted Larry Moriarty, a former fullback for the Houston Oilers and the Kansas City Chiefs who now runs Moriarty Charities, a foundation that funds youth sports programs. "It didn't take any time to decide to fund this project," says Moriarty. "I see this growing very, very fast."
Ground was recently broken on the Khayelitsha Golf Club, which will consist of a driving range and a practice putting green that will be lit so they can be open around the clock. Next summer Biehl, who lives at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif., plans to bring one of the Hidden Golfers, Gamzana, to the U.S. to play in a pro-am hosted by Kansas City running back Marcus Allen in Santa Barbara, Calif.
The primary goal of the Hidden Golfers, though, is bringing the sport to the settlement's children. "They don't just teach the fundamentals of golf; they teach them the ethics of the game, the history, the sportsmanship," says Biehl. "It's especially neat because the members of this group know of my daughter and her love for the people and their country. This is something Amy would have been proud to be a part of."