A new Francois Hanekom in town 

Francois Hanekom with his son Francois Hanekom junior. Photo: Helge Schütz

Francois Hanekom is undoubtedly Namibia’s best amateur golfer since independence, dominating the local scene for about three decades, but now his son is starting to make a name in his own right.

Francois junior, however, is not following in his dad’s footsteps as a golfer, but as a squash player of great potential, who recently took South Africa by storm when he won two junior tournaments in the Cape province. 

“I took Francois down to compete in South Africa to see what his standard was like. Here in Namibia they don’t have much competition while all the juniors compete against each other, but in South Africa they have various age group categories from u11 up to u19 level,” his father said. 

Competing in South Africa for the first time, the 12-year-old Francois made an immediate impact when he won both the Boland Junior Championships at the Strand and the Van der Stel Junior Championships in Stellenbosch. 

Along the way he beat Western Province and Boland’s top-ranked players, drawing praise and astonishment at his quick development in the game. 

“The organisers of the Boland Junior Champs didn’t know where to enter him in the draw, because they had never heard about him. So they put him up against Western Province’s number one seed, Milton Posthumus, in the first round and he completely overwhelmed him, beating him in three sets,” Hanekom senior said, adding with a chuckle that Posthumus’ parents were highly upset with the draw and admonished the organisers about it. 

Francois junior sailed through the rest of the tournament reaching the final without dropping a set. In the final he came up against Boland’s second seeded player but once again was a class above as he won the title without dropping a set. 

A week later Francois competed at the Van der Stel Junior Open and once again cleaned up the opposition. This time Boland’s top seed, Omri du Toit, who missed the Boland Junior Open, was also in the draw, but he too succumbed to Hanekom, before the Namibian once again beat Posthumus 3-0 in the final. 

Some of the onlookers were amazed by this unknown youngster from Namibia, with a provincial coach even telling Hanekom senior that he had never seen such progress at such a young age. 

“A local coach asked me how long Francois had been playing squash so Isaid nearly two years and he could not believe it. He said he had never seen a player with such a variety of shots after 10 years, let alone two years,” he said. 

Francois junior, meanwhile, was also quite baffled by his sudden success. 

“I must say, I expected that it would be tougher, but it went quite comfortably,” he said with a smile. 

His progress has been amazing bearing in mind that he picked up a squash racket for the first time in May 2022.

“I play squash socially at Wanderers Squash Club so I took him along, and after the game when my partner and I were having a beer, Francois picked up the racket and started hitting against the wall. He was hooked from the start and has never looked back,” Hanekom senior said. 

They enlisted the services of squash coach Sean Wathen and with Francois taking lessons three times a week, his game gradually started to improve. He entered some tournaments, without success, but in September last year, just before his 12th birthday, his first breakthrough came when he won the Buccaneers Junior Open in Swakopmund, beating the 16-year-old JJ Hitula in the final. 

Since his return from South Africa he competed in the Namibian Junior Championships where he came third after losing to the eventual champion, the 16-year-old Timo Huster in the semifinals.

He has now set his sights on more titles, and is currently hard at work, preparing for the Swakopmund Junior Championships in March and the South African Country Festival tournament in April.

Hanekom senior, who won more than 100 amateur golf titles in Namibia, said that his son had grown tremendously through squash.

“I must say, I thought he would end up playing golf one day, I never thought that he would play squash. But it’s amazing to see how he has grown and developed as a person through squash, and one realises the value that sport has in the psychological development of a child,” he said. 

“The impact on him as a person has been amazing – his personality and character has developed, while his confidence has grown,” he added. 

Hanekom senior studied psychology at university and said that he is now also helping his son through the knowledge and experience that he gained. 

“It doesn’t matter how good you are, if you don’t have confidence, you will be in trouble. It’s about how you handle stress and defeats, so I’m doing what I can to help him develop on a psychological level.”

Hanekom junior, meanwhile, has big dreams for the future.

“My big dream is to become a professional squash player, while my short term goal is to represent my country,” he said. 

With squash due to become an Olympic sport code in 2028 he will have another goal to aim for, and although he will only be 16 by then, age has certainly not held him back in the past. 

“He will still be a bit young in 2028, but let’s see how he develops,” Hanekom senior said. 

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