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SPRIGHTLY professional golfer Julius Kamalizeni is determined to make an impression on this season’s Sunshine Tour, which include the revived Zimbabwe Open, when he debuts on the tour this month.

The Harare-born golfer was among the top five finishers on the Zimbabwe Professional Golfers Association (ZPGA) Order of Merit for 2009. He was rewarded for his sterling performances on the local scene with one of five tickets to the Sunshine Tour for this year.
Thriving on consistency, the 38-year-old Kamalizeni might not have won any tournaments as a professional, but his consistent performances were enough to put him in second place on the year-end ZPGA Order of Merit. Kamalizeni was among the top five finishers in virtually every tournament last year.
While sponsorship had proven a big challenge for the golfer who is obliged to take part in at least 80 % of Sunshine Tour events as a condition for earning the Tour card, Kamalizeni has since secured the much-needed support and has set himself targets on the Sunshine Tour circuit which he joins this February.
“This year is all about learning and improving as much as possible for me,” says Kamalizeni. “I will be playing on the tour the whole year and my target is to get off to a good start, qualify for tournaments and try to make the cut every time.”
It has been an interesting golf journey for Kamalizeni, who now finds himself making his Sunshine Tour bow at the ripe age of 38. Coming from a working class background, Kamalizeni, like most kids of his time, grew up with a passion for football –– a sport that he admits was always top of his priority list.
“Growing up, my first priority was football even though I also played golf –– though not seriously – at Wingate where my father worked (and still works). Even now, I still follow the sport and am a keen Dynamos supporter.”
As fate would have it, the man they call “Shoes” eventually settled for golf with veteran golfer Lewis Chitengwa Muridzo taking the forefront in the youngster’s development.
“Mudhara Chitengwa introduced me to serious golf in the late 1980s, but around 1995 I quit golf after I got a job at Nandos, who sent me to South Africa for my in-house training,” reveals Kamalizeni. “I only returned to the golf course in 2000 after I left Nandos and decided to give golf another try.”
Kamalizeni is particularly rueful when he looks back on the years he spent away from golf. “Those were the low points for me,” Kamalizeni says. “Coming back to the golf course was like a re-birth for me.”
The turn of the millennium was a sort of reincarnation of Kamalizeni with the golfer making the Zimbabwe Zone VI team in 2001 as a non-travelling reserve.
“I made it into that (2001) Zone VI team just over a year after returning to golf, so for me it was a great achievement,” quips Kamalizeni, who says he has no idea how he came to be nicknamed “Shoes”.
That call-up was the signal for Kamalizeni to rise to the apex of local golf –– making the Zone VI team for the following four years, leading up to 2006. In that period, “Shoes” also made it into the four-member All-Africa Golf Team Championship in Botswana which included Dirk Benade, Garth Dale and captain Ryan Lang.
“Shoes” rates 2006 as his best golfing year yet: “That was my best year in golf. I won two crucial tournaments – The Harare Amateur at Wingate and the Midlands Amateur. I was also the runner-up at the Matabeleland and Manicaland Amateur tournaments.”
Those performances, coupled with a top-10 finish in the Zimbabwe Amateur, were enough to earn Kamalizeni a spot in the three-member team for the Eisenhower Trophy in Stellenbosch, South Africa. His teammates were Brian Gondo and Miros Katembenuka.
For Kamalizeni, the Eisenhower Trophy experience remains memorable for one major reason –– he achieved the ultimate golfing fluke.
“We did very well at the Eisenhower and were even in the top 20 after the first round,” says Kamalizeni. “But for me the occasion was extra special because that’s when I had my first ever hole-in-one. It was an unforgettable experience.”
After the momentous achievement at the Eisenhower Trophy and a fruitful season all round, Kamalizeni decided to turn professional and duly did so in November 2006. He however admits it has not been an easy ride on the ZPGA tour.
“Before 2009, things had not been looking too good for us professionals,” comments Kalimazeni. “The economy was going haywire and first, our earnings were losing value before we could do anything about it and then the tournaments dried up especially in 2008. That experience was so bad I even began to wonder whether remaining a professional golfer was worth it. Last year, things started to improve and I hope this year will be even better.”
Kamalizeni is married to Tilda Manduna and the couple has two children, Hilda (10) and Hilton (6) –– both keen golfers in their own right. “They are very enthusiastic about the sport”. –– Golfzone.co.zw

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