Independent Sports view with Rodger Bailey
HERE is the first of a two-part exploration of the sport of golf in Zimbabwe by Rodger Bailey, looking at national development right from grassroots level, issues o
f sponsorship and competition on the international scene.
THE Zimbabwe Junior Golf Association has, in Nick Price’s words, “one of the finest development programmes in the world”. One only has to see the number of successful players who have come through the junior ranks to verify this.
Everyone knows of Price, Mark McNulty and Tony Johnstone, who have made their mark and fortunes in the field of international golf.
David Leadbetter, a former Chapman junior, is the next best-known golfer. He is the most famous golf coach in the world, having coached Price, Faldo, Frost and dozens of others of the world’s best players.
Others from a few years back are Dennis Watson, winner of three consecutive tournaments on the USPGA Tour, now teaching at Leadbetter Academy and reputed to be earning US$16 000 ($96 million) a month.
George Harvey was rated the No 1 amateur in the world in the 70s. He won the South African amateur, as did Teddy Webber and the late Lewis Chitengwa, who also beat Tiger Woods to win the Orange Bowl World Junior Golf Championship. There are many more like Peter Brown, Andrew Derby and his brother Stuart, Paul Kilner and James Loughnane who are head coaches in Europe, as well as Anthony Edwards in Australia and Mike Baylis in Malawi.
There are many playing on secondary tours in the US and Europe, including Marc Cayeux on the Challenge Tour who finished in the top 10 this year and has just qualified for the European Tour. Playing in the US are Brendon de Jonge, Shane Wilde and Bruce MacDonald, all of whom are making their mark and promoting the name of Zimbabwe in the world of golf.
Sean Farrell, Mike Lamb, Adilson da Silva, Shane Pringle, Gary Thane, Jason Jackson, Peter Banda and Nasho Kamungeremu all successfully compete on the Zimbabwean and South African tours.
New recruits to the professional ranks are Dirk Benade and Byran Rocher who are beginning to make their mark on the local tour and are now competing in South Africa.
Many of these players have received their tertiary education in some of the best colleges in the US due to their ability as junior golfers. Those presently at top scholastic and golf colleges include Gary Ferguson, Gari Maton, Nick MacDonald and Carl Densem. They are all on golf scholarships which save their parents many thousands of dollars.
So what is the programme that has produced so many successful golfers?
Each school holiday there is a week’s clinic for beginners and young golfers in Harare, usually held at Chapman Golf Club, and another more recently started at Bulawayo Golf Club by Murray Parsons, another successful ex-junior golfer.
There are also tournaments held nearly every day of the school holidays. Some are 18-hole competitions, others are 36-hole and 72-hole tournaments.
Each year Zimbabwe juniors compete in the Africa qualifier for the World Junior Team Championships, and on the occasions Zimbabwe have qualified, they play in the finals in Japan.
A tri-nations development tournament between Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe is played each year, with teams of four under-19 and four under-17 juniors, the venue alternating between the three countries.
When possible, Zimbabwe Junior Golf tries to assist with the finance of sending juniors to play in major tournaments in the US, the UK and Europe. Unfortunately, this can only be when sufficient funds are available.
How is all this funded? It is funded by generous donations from our long-standing sponsors, the Nick Price Foundation, Zimbabwe Sun Hotels, Schweppes, Nomads Golf Club and, more recently, Meikles Hotel, Leopard Rock Hotel, Faithwear and Deloittes. Many other companies and individuals support our fundraising events.
Nearer the time, the full programme of Christmas Holiday junior golf activities will be published in this newspaper.
*Rodger Bailey will be on the column again next week looking at golf development at national level, with specific focus on sponsorship. He will also argue on whether the sport is developing or falling in standards on the national scale.