2013 will go down in history as the year when Zimbabwean golf reclaimed its place on the world stage as local golf strategically positioned itself ahead of the return of the sport to the Olympics in 2016.
While other sporting disciplines found the going tough, local golf stood head and shoulders above the rest, signaling a bright future for a sport which has a very rich history in Zimbabwe.
The highlight of the year for local golf was without a doubt, Zimbabwean golfers’ return to the prestigious Presidents Cup competition, the second major team golf competition after the Ryder Cup. Four Zimbabwean golfers namely Nick Price, Tony Johnstone, Mark McNulty and Brendon de Jonge, were all part of the international team that took on the US team in Ohio.
Three-time major champion Price, now 56, captained the team, while Johnstone and McNulty were his assistants with Zimbabwe’s number one golfer De Jonge also making his debut in the biannual tournament.
Prior to this year, Zimbabwe had last been represented at the Presidents Cup by Price way back in 2003. De Jonge described playing in the Presidents Cup for the first time as the highlight of his career. He earned a place in the team as one of Price’s captain’s picks, a decision that initially prompted criticism.
However, De Jonge won praises from teammates, opponents and the commentators during the tournament, justifying his selection in the team.
“I can say without a doubt it (The Presidents Cup) alongside Nick Price was the highlight of my golfing career so far. I loved the team aspect of it all which is what I certainly miss the most in this profession,” De Jonge said after yet another successful golf season.
On the local front, Zimbabwe hosted another successful Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open in April, although local fans were made to wait longer before a local emerges victorious.
South African Jake Roos emerged victorious after rallying to hold off his compatriot Darren Fichardt and Italy’s Francesco Laporta to clinch a nail-biting one-shot victory. Zimbabwe’s highest ranked player on the Sunshine Tour, Ryan Cairns was tied for 10th position and finished as the highest professional for the second successive year.
In amateur golf, Zimbabwe’s leading player Scott Vincent finished the year as Africa’s leading amateur after a phenomenal season for the Virginia Tech University men’s golf team. The 21-year-old rising star is currently ranked 19th on the latest World Amateur Golf Rankings which feature more than 6 000 players from 100 countries.
Vincent claimed victories in three of his first four starts for Virginia Tech to cement his status as one of the leading college golfers in the US. The impressive run of from saw the former St John’s College young star being named the Atlantic Coast Conference Men’s Golfer of the Month for the month of September.
In junior golf, US-based Zimbabwean junior golfer Sean Crocker gave a glimpse of the bright future ahead of him with a solid display at the Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open. Competing in a local tournament for the first time, the 16-year-old teenage sensation was a marvel to watch as he went on to finish as the second highest placed local golfer in the field after finishing in a tie for 37th.
Zimbabwe’s junior golf programmes continue to churn out talented players as witnessed by the emergence to young players such as Stuart Krog, Kieran Vincent and Travis Smith among others.