YOUR sports reporter, Enock Muchinjo, writes of the impending return of the Zimbabwe Open golf tournament, “Zimbabwe Open to bounce back”, (IndependentSport, December 17).
His optimism, it transpires, is based on an interview with the current president of the Zimbabwe Professional Golfers Association (ZPGA), Morgan Shumba. The latter is reported to have told Muchinjo that “the association had made huge strides in raising US$1 million to sponsor the Open”.
Shumba is then quoted as expressing confidence “that the Open will be back next year and we would have raised at least a large fraction of that amount by the time of the tournament”.
Forgive me for being cynical, but the whole report reminded me of the banner headlines and accompanying story on the back page of the Herald way back in the early years of Independence which told us that a then-unknown young firebrand indigenous capitalist, one Philip Chiyangwa, had successfully negotiated financial backing to the tune, in those days, of £120 million for the construction of a Sun City-style sporting complex in the Bvumba mountains. We still await the great day, though none of us are holding our breath any longer.
It will take a great deal more than Mr Shumba’s assurance of funding to the tune of US$1 million, or thereabouts, to convince tournament-starved golfing addicts in Zimbabwe that the defunct Zimbabwe Open will make its comeback anytime in the near future.
The damage done to the credibility of professional golf in Zimbabwe by the non-payment debacle in 2001, when Zanu PF MP and golf referee Phineas Chihota presided over the tournament committee, was close to fatal.
As for the notion that all, or any, of 12 of the world’s best golfers would consider for one minute stopping off in Zimbabwe en route to Sun City’s multi-million dollar golf tournament, that is simply wishful thinking on Shumba’s part.
He is further quoted as saying that the ZPGA would want to stage the tournament in Victoria Falls in order to “attract more foreign participation as people will also come to see the Falls”. That, too, is doubtful.
Professional golfers are not sight-seers, and one of the first requirements for a tournament of almost any stature anywhere in the world is a world-class golf-course. Whatever else it may be, the Elephant Hills layout is way below the standards required for the hosting of such an event.
Finally, do Shumba and his colleagues on the ZPGA executive grasp the fact that golf as a sport in Zimbabwe is in decline as more and more courses, particularly in country locations, shut their doors for lack of membership and financial support as a result of the madness of the past few years?
Instead of flying kites in public about grandiose schemes to revive the moribund Zimbabwe Open, they should be addressing the problems of golf at grassroots level and defending the sport from the depredations of all those agencies involved in the on-going destruction of our nation. But then that, of course, would involve a great deal of sweat and courage as opposed to cheap publicity, which is always fun as long as you are not held to account at a later stage for promising pie in the sky!