Greenkeeper also open champion
This article was written by Herman Jansen and printed in the Tygberburger on 8 December 2021.
This job is like making a piece of art, once you get the hang of it. And it is a long, hard slog, a marathon, rather than a sprint,” says Jeffrey Claasen (53), greenkeeper at Durbanville Bowling Club.
He started working at the club 36 years ago in 1985 – a wide-eyed, bushy-tailed farmboy of only 17 years old.
When Claasen had the honour to hoist the national flag a few weeks ago at the official opening of the new bowling season, it bore testament to what he had achieved in his “marathon” of 36 years at the 74-year-old club.
Jeffrey Claasen’s name also features twice as open champion on Durbanville Bowling Club’s honours board among other formidable players.
He left school with very little education (“Standard five and a bit”) and grew up on the farm Klein Fisantekraal outside Durbanville.
“I did farmwork after school. It was a tough life,” says Claasen. “You learned to do everything. I was used to hard work and not afraid of it.”
He was destined to be just another farm labourer.
But then an opportunity at the club’s greens opened up. He was then living with his stepfather and mother, Magrieta, a domestic worker in a house belonging to the Durbanville Race Course, adjacent to the bowling club.
This was the start of a remarkable journey for the wiry, live-wire Claasen.
Three well-manicured greens bear testimony to the work done by him, his assistants, the brothers Morné and Kelvin September, and the committee’s green ranger, Colynn de Witt.
The immaculately trimmed green-banks and the lush, colourful surrounding gardens round off their remarkable greenkeeping efforts.
Claasen has also turned himself into a top bowler, winning the club’s open championship in the 2011-12 season.
The club’s honours board displays his name for posterity among other legends of the club and just below that of Shaun Addinall, one of the club’s Protea bowlers, who won the open title in 2010-’11.
Claasen won the title again in 2014-’15.
Before that he was the club’s novice champion in 2006 and was awarded the trophy as most promising player in 2008.
His most cherished achievement, however, was his selection for Western Province B for the national inter districts tournament in 2012, and again in 2017.
Tony Harland, the club’s president, sings Claasen’s praises.
“He is meticulous in his preparation of the greens and the surrounding gardens and is regularly praised by visiting players for his efforts.
“Over the past few decades we have been known to have the best greens in the Western Cape, having hosted many Western Province finals, as well as inter provincial tournaments,” says Harland.
“Jeffrey and his team have been largely responsible for the excellent playing surfaces produced over the years. He is also an excellent bowler,” he says.
The bowling club, with its more than 200 members, is the biggest in Western Province, and has from the outset 36 years ago known Claasen’s worth full-well.
From the outset he was provided with housing in the original clubhouse.
“The new clubhouse was built in 1979,” says Claasen. “When I first came here, it only had one room.” When he got married to Elizabeth Esselaar (now 52), the main part of the old clubhouse was converted into a three-bedroom home for the Claasen familly.
They have three children, Lisa (30), Jeremy (28), and Katelynn (13).