BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
THE Leadbetter Golf Academy (LGA) Zimbabwe continues to grow at a phenomenal rate, despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on local sport, after one of its rising stars Tawana Mangoma last week qualified for the prestigious US Kids Golf World Championships to be held in the US in July.
Located at the picturesque Royal Harare Golf Club, the LGA Zimbabwe, which opened its doors last year, is part of an exclusive chain of 40 academies around the globe run by the world-renowned golf coach David Leadbetter, who grew up in Zimbabwe.
Ryan Cairns — a Zimbabwean Sunshine Tour winner, with more than 300 tournaments under his belt in an over 15-year playing career — is the Leadbetter Academy director and on-course performance instructor of LGA Zimbabwe.
Mangoma became the first product of the golf academy to qualify for a major tournament after finishing second at the World Championships Qualifier 2021 which was played out at Huddle Park Golf Club in Johannesburg.
The teen golf prodigy, who recently turned 13, carded a composed round of 73 (35 and 38) around the challenging layout at Huddle Park, to finish second in his age group category in the South African qualifier which featured over 70 young golfers between the ages of 11 and 14.
Mangoma will now participate in the US Kids Golf World Championship which is widely recognised as the largest and most prestigious event in the world for junior golfers.
Played at Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, North Carolina, the US Kids Golf Teen World Championship includes golfers 13 to 18 who tee it up on some of the best and most revered golf courses in America.
This three-day tournament attracts over 500 participants from across the United States and more than 30 countries abroad.
In preparation for the tournament, Mangoma has received a special invitation to fine-tune his game at the state-of-the-art David Leadbetter Academy headquarters at the Champions Gate Golf Club in Davenport, Florida, after they were impressed by his performance in South Africa.
Cairns, who has been mentoring Mangoma since the Harare-based academy opened its doors last year, said the young Zimbabwean would be aiming to not only compete, but win during his US adventure.
He attributed the young Mangoma’s rise to his dedicated training regime, as well as the positive environment they have created at the LGA Zimbabwe.
“The atmosphere at Leadbetter Golf Academy Zimbabwe is driven by three words…’Positive Vibes Only’. We have a WhatsApp group with the kids and inspire them to believe deeply in what they are capable of achieving. Coming from a small country like Zimbabwe is not a weakness, it is a strength. Tawana is now moving into his preparation for USA and is not just going over there with the mindset of competing. He now wants to win the US Kids Championship,” he said.
Cairns also revealed that, with the support of their US-based parent academy, they would soon be embarking on a nationwide talent search for young golfers aspiring to secure golf scholarships to the US.
“We are launching an elite programme for junior golfers looking to earn NCAA golf scholarships to America. It’s called ‘Leadbetter College Prep’ and will be limited to only 20 students, with try-outs and Leadbetter camps being hosted throughout Zimbabwe to identify the best and most driven junior golfers in the country. We will announce tour dates for the try-outs once lockdown restrictions allow for travel and all information can be found at www.leadbetterzimbabwe.com.”
Cairns added: “The American headquarters of Leadbetter Academy has been so impressed with our junior golfers’ progress, that they have extended this amazing programme, which has a 99% success rate for graduates going on to play college golf.”