INDEPENDENT SPORTS VIEW
LAST week I made mention of Zimbabwean golfers who have made their mark in world golf as players and teachers. Mention must also be made of others who have made their mark in golf in other ways.
Everyone who has watched golf on television has heard the voice of Dennis Hutchison. Hutchison is an ex-professional golfer from Mutare who won the Rhodesian Open in the early 70s. His voice is known all over the world by those who watch European Tour events on Sky TV, for whom Hutchison commentates.
Lauren St John, an ex-Chapman junior golfer, was at one stage golf correspondent for The Times (of London), but more recently she has been writing books, including autobiographies of Greg Norman, Seve Ballesteros and John Daly, as well as several other books on golf.
Another ex-Zimbabwean who springs to mind is Peter Matkovich, a very successful golf course designer who designed the magnificent Leopard Rock Golf Course as well as Borrowdale Brooke Golf Course. He also modernised the greens at Chapman Golf Course, and he has designed many of South Africa’s finest courses.
Will this proud legacy continue?
The Zimbabwe Junior Golf Association, ably led by its president Pat McGrady, an ex-junior international who played in the same junior team as Nick Price, is very active in promoting junior golf, but there do not seem to be enough juniors joining the association. Without a continuous number of players joining the junior ranks and then progressing to senior golf, the standard of golf in this country is bound to decline.
One of the reasons for the lack of children joining the junior association has been the exodus of many Zimbabweans to other parts of the world.
Another reason is that Zimbabwean schools no longer consider golf a major sport, as it is in most other parts of the world. Most schools in this country make their pupils play cricket, rugby and hockey and ignore golf.
The one promising development in this country has been the establishment of the Nick Price Golf School where 10 juniors are invited to join each year and are fully sponsored to play in all junior and senior golf tournaments for a whole year. They also have regular instruction from the manager of school, Geoff Guy.
At the senior level, the Zimbabwe Golf Union has a very busy schedule of golf tournaments throughout the year, including the Filande Trophy, an inter-provincial tournament, competing in the regional Zone Six tournament each year, and sending a team of three players to the international Eisenhower Trophy each alternate year.
Yet no longer are development teams sent to neighbouring countries nor top players sent to compete in South African tournaments where the standard of golf is extremely high. Lack of finance is the obvious reason for this state of affairs.
So what is the answer if golf in this country is not to decline to become a mere friendly pastime?
Schools must be encouraged to take golf more seriously and encourage some of their better sportsmen to play golf. Maybe they should also employ one of our very good teaching professionals to coach golf on one or two afternoons a week.
There could be the establishment of a school golf league played every week between all the major senior schools. The same type of league at primary school level would see that junior golf could continue Zimbabwe’s fine heritage.
Financial assistance for junior, senior and schools golf must be forthcoming by one or more major companies and/or organisations if golf is to continue to be successful. Properly financed, managed and promoted it could give them a wonderfully satisfying and richly rewarding return on their investment.