Bleak future for Zim golf
FOR the past seven years, since the return of the Golden Pilsner Zimbabwe Open, local professional golfers have failed to keep perfect tempo in their swings.
And to show for this, not a single local golfer has played his way into the winners’ circle since Mark McNulty, Nick Price and Tony Johnstone last claimed the title way back before it was terminated in 2001.
Tongoona Charamba has won a number of tournaments in the past few years, but he has failed to land the Golden Pilsner Zimbabwe Open.
His coups include the Namibia Championship and the South African Airways Pro-Am.
Since then, South African golfers have dominated the tournament.
I have attended a number of premier golf tournaments at Royal Harare Golf Club- which is rated to have some of the finest courses around.
Many even consider it as the spiritual home of golf.
But I have noticed that even with scores of supporters lining up in the fairways to watch their heroes take on the Sunshine Tour players every year, our boys don’t tee off confidently.
Every year, interestingly, by the time the South Africans stroll off the 18th green, ready for a well- earned beverage at the 19th, most of our boys would be sweating and even feeling a little short of a breath.
They always find it difficult to tap in swings for birdies.
Instead, they take a bogey too many times and end up losing the tournament.
Fear always envelopes them , concentration don’t kick in and as a result, quite a number struggle with the concept of gripping golf club, something which promotes flexibility and stability.
This results in our golfers dropping balls in the wrong part of the fairway.
Under pressure, they don’t know whether to use the overlapping or interlocking, or to use the baseball grip.
A good posture allows for good body rotation along a constant swing plane, but there is a big problem in this area.
Another is in terms of alignment, where both the hips and shoulders should be square to the target line.
No matter how good a swing is, as long as there is improper alignment, it is likely to produce an errant shot.
Some analysts blame the current liquidity crunch the country is experiencing, which has resulted in companies reducing their sponsorship towards sports.
Delta Beverages has been the title sponsor for this prestigious tournament for the past five years through its Golden Pilsenser brand, while other sponsors include Tongaat Huletts, ZOL Zimbabwe, Old Mutual, and Sahwira Mukuru Events Management.
But experts who spoke to the Financial Gazette said local golfers’ “work ethic”, particularly their swings were poor and in general, their golf brain is “weak”.
“Our golfers are not fit in three areas, namely skills and fitness. They have not been working on their brain, which is weak,” said Boniface Chigorimbo, the Zimbabwe Golfers Association’s golf development officer.
“There is something called work ethics. This is the amount of work you put into training, into your work. Our guys do not work hard on these and it’s showing, these are the results which we are seeing because of those three areas that are weak.
“It has nothing to do with other things because they will tell you they need more game time but we have been playing with this guys two, three times a week.
When we play with them, they shoot one –under par, level par, which means when they come to these grand stages (Zimbabwe Open tournaments), they start shooting over-pars. So they are not yet good enough in terms of shooting. They should be shooting par scores 62, 63 and so forth so that when they come to tournaments like these, they are now shooting 68,” he said.
“Their training regime and in their minds, is second class, so what comes out is second class. That is exactly what is happening with our professional golfers.”
“These guys,” Chigorimbo suggested “don’t work in the gym. You saw the thighs and arms of the South Africans. It tells you the guys work a lot in the gym. Our boys don’t do that. You can see if there is pressure, the (South African) guy even focuses more. This mean they work on the brain. Our guys don’t know that one must work on the brain.
“In a nutshell, our guys just don’t have the work ethics yet to take them to the winner’s podium. These are young stars that turned professionals in the last 15 years. I know them all, their swings and everything they are doing. I insist on mental, physical strengths and skills.”
This year’s Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open golf tournament was claimed by 28 year old South African, Lyle Rowe at Royal Harare Golf Club last Sunday.
He finished on nine –under 277, two shots ahead of compatriot Dylan Fritteli.
Fellow South Africans Louis de Jager and Bryce Easten shared second place with a score of eight-under-par 280.
This was Rowe’s second Sunshine Tour tournament in as many years since his success at the 2014 Zambia Open.
Scott Vincent posted a seven-under -65 which left him tied on fifth place together with South Africans Hennie du Plessis, Mark Murless, Breyten Meyer and Swedish golfer Jonathan Agren.
Mark William was the second best Zimbabwean with a par score 288 and was tied on position 30 with five others.
Vincent was aiming to be the first Zimbabwean to win the tournament since it returned in 2010 from a nine year hiatus.
Zimbabwe born Deen Burmester, who competes under the South African flag was the defending champion but finished seven shots off the pace.
Local rising star, Kieran Vincent, who is Scott’s sibling emerged as the Zimbabwe Open amateur champion with a final score of four-over 292.
David Amm was another Zimbabwean amateur who made the cut to compete with the professionals.
Chigorimbo, however has a possible solution.
“Start developing golf in primary, secondary schools, and tertiary institutions and then create homes of excellences where the cream of these guys end up going into,” said Chigorimbo.
“That will remove the issue where most of our boys still have caddish mentality, because most of them were caddies and have no education.
He added: “Create a national golf school today, where you pick the current top junior amateurs and put them there. Take another 20 young professional golfers who played in this year’s Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open but couldn’t make it. There are still young, so put them there and drill them.
“I am calling it a school so that you just don’t look at the swing, you go wider. You look at the person and say what is his education background and what are his talents and drive them towards that. The idea is as you develop their aptitude, you are possibly developing their brains because they are weak. They don’t have analytical skills, so you want to develop them in class,” he said.
“So in that school, you want to develop their deportment again. Some of them remain caddish in mentality throughout. They are not lifting from there to a level that they are now professionals in thinking and doing. It is something which is not there. So let’s teach them those things.”
On physical training, chigorimbo said; “is not about just aerobics, not in today’s golf. It has become scientific and there are methods of training, which you have to pick fast and then maintain it, and then you develop to another level. It’s no more just about the gym”.
“To start with, our guys don’t even know about the gym. If they do, they go there and do the wrong training which makes them not able to swing. In actual fact, the swing of today has become a computer swing. It’s no longer the art-swing of the (Nick) Price time. It’s now being analysed by a computer not by the naked eyes. I belief if we work on such a programme with young stars for a few months, we will come back next year and do some wonders. If we don’t do that, next year it is likely to be the same story.”
Edson Mutero, a veteran professional golfer, who has since retired, said: “The game is poorly sponsored. These South Africans are sponsored by companies who come here equipped with (huge sums of money to spend). So they will have a free mind, which means they just come here to play and concentrate on their game. After the Zimbabwe Open, they have flown to Zambia, for another tournament. This was paid for by South African companies. (On the other hand) our professionals don’t have money, even US$5”.
He added: “They can’t even go by bus. They just stay here and wait for the next Zimbabwe Open in 12 months time. So how can they win? Psychologically, they are finished, that’s why most of the time they hit the ball (towards the wrong part of the fairway).
“Most of them are eliminated in the first round because they will be thinking about rent and their children’s school fees. To win a golf tournament you need a free mind.
“If you see them drinking beer, it’s because it’s sponsored, there have no money. But after that sponsored drink, they become street kids because they don’t have money in their pockets. They will never, never win under these tough conditions.”
One of the local professional golf players, Tichaona Musemburi, who competed at the weekend’s tournament but lost in the first round, vented his frustrations to golf administrators, soon after the prize giving ceremony.
“Since I turned professional (four years ago), I found it like that, because golf is not assisted well,” Musemburi told the Financial Gazette.
“Everything is bad. We have no psychologists, dieticians, no mentors, so we can’t get to these South African golfers’ level.
“(By the way), this is not a physical game, it’s a gentlemen’s game (because you don’t have to tackle your opponents). This means, you got to have a skill but to have a strong mind, you need enough (financial) assistance, training programmes and tournaments.
“If it remains like this, we won’t get whatever result we want. Just imagine, I stay in Hartfied and when I am coming for a tournament like this, I get into a kombi. What do you find? The conductor and the passengers are talking some other language which doesn’t prepare me mentally. A professional golfer needs an environment where it’s basically golf all the way. But our environment is crap (sic). The administrators should do something. Look at the South Africans. They are drinking inside the tent celebrating but where are the Zimbabweans?” he asked.
He continued: “They have gone home because they are tired of talking and have family problems. Every Zimbabwean player is now switched off and they have gone home to attend to their family problems”.
Musemburi had no kind words for golf administrators in this country.
“They think they know too much and have made it all the way. It’s grace, its luck. We tell them that don’t be proud of grace. Give it to the next person, don’t hold it to yourself. Relax.”
Musemburi said; “The South Africans are taking it full time-golf all the way. But our golf is unassisted, with no tournaments. Yes, we played this week but do you know when will be the next (tournament), in 12 months time. What is that? Come on guys.”
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