What has happened to golf in Zimbabwe?

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Gary Player created a strong legacy with a dominant run in the 1960s, paving the way for future generations to take on the mantle in South Africa. Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen and now Branden Grace have ensured that the Rainbow nation are well represented among golf’s major championships.

Schwartzel has history at The Masters as did Player, who was a three-time winner at Augusta. If you’re betting on golf, Schwartzel has long odds to win The Masters for a second time at 251.00, although anything is possible as the 36-year-old could stun the world to repeat his 2011 triumph.

Price was also a fierce competitor at The Masters, but could only finish as high as fifth in 1986. His best accomplishments came in the PGA Championship, which he lifted in 1992 and 1994. The Zimbabwean also enjoyed success in The Open, claiming the crown in 1994. It was a signature moment in the history of sport in Zimbabwe, but the country have not been able to build on his success with future generations.

There has been minor success stories such as Brendon de Jonge. De Jonge has enjoyed greater international success, winning the Xerox Classic in New York in 2008. He also came close in the RSM Classic, only to be beaten in a playoff by Robert Streb in 2014. De Jonge enjoyed a constant presence in the PGA Championship for a six-year period between 2010 and 2015, finishing as high as 26th, while he also finished 28th and 37th in the US Open and The Masters respectively in 2014. De Jonge’s performances have been the recent high mark internationally for Zimbabwe, who are lacking in true star power across all sports.

Look no further than cricket where Andy Flower was an outstanding player that allowed the Chevrons to compete with the best teams in the world. Grant Flower, Heath Streak and Henry Olonga among others were all excellent competitors. However, since the early 00s, Zimbabwe have faded on the international scene due to the lack of talent emerging through the ranks. Funding has been a problem for clubs, which is preventing a new generation from coming to the fore. It has resulted in players of the ilk of Gary Ballance leaving to move to England, who he has represented at Test and ODI level.

 

There are ways around the problem and golfers such as Ben Follett-Smith have found a way to reach their potential by travelling to the United States to study. Follett-Smith has now turned professional after plying his trade at Mississippi State. The Zimbabwean won the RAM Cape Town Open in 2019 to rise to 338th in the world rankings. The 26-year-old has tailed off since, but there could be signs that the shoots of recovery are beginning to emerge for the sport in the country, especially if Follett-Smith is able to improve his standing.

Post published in: Cricket

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