My Early Golf Years

I first played golf at the age of twelve and a half. It wasn’t something I volunteered for, more an enforced lesson in parental discipline following an unfortunate incident involving my mother’s beloved Fiat 124 Sports Coupe and a brick wall. After a strict two-week curfew, my reprieve came in the form of caddying for my dad. Not quite what I had in mind when celebrating my lifted sanctions, but I jumped at the chance to get out the house.

By the 2nd hole even my dad could sense I was bored out of my tiny mind. He handed me a 7-iron, a tee and ball. I swung wildly and like a fired up cannon ball my Dunlop 65i spurted forward an impressive 35 yards. I was ecstatic and instantly hooked. And so my caddying career ended and my love for golf began. My spirits were uplifted, even if my ball was not for the remaining holes.

I grew up in the stunning city of Mutare located in the picturesque mountains of the Eastern Highlands on the border of Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Despite the fragility of the economy, it was and remains a breathtaking country rich with stunning championship courses and homegrown talent. Zimbabwe has produced some of the best golfers in the world including Nick Price, Tony Johnstone and Mark McNulty. It was every kid’s dream to follow in those footsteps. Hero worship combined with industrial strength fearlessness and naivety.

My very first set of clubs belonged to my Grandmother. A vintage half set of hickory shaft irons and a battered 3 wood with an intriguing leather grip. They would merit pride of place in the Natural History Museum today, but during the late 80s in third world Africa, they were all I needed to get a handicap. Everyday after school I threw my golf bag over my shoulder, jumped on my BMX and raced down to the club for a practice round with the boys before sunset. Much to my parents’ dismay the back garden of our house was converted into a large putting green. The roots of the lemon trees below ground made for interesting contours and challenging breaks. They drew the line at pitching golf balls into the swimming pool.

Then one day my kind Mum did the unthinkable. She gave me her own shiny steel shafted Lady Ram golf clubs complete with rubber grips. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier. And so my passion for the game took on new levels. With the exception of school, a real buzzkill, most waking hours were spent at Hillside Golf Club. Pocket money changed hands like a professional betting syndicate.

For several years the boys and I continued to compete regularly. We took on the pros, rival clubs and travelled together to the capital representing Manicaland in the annual Junior Inter Provincials. It was exhilarating. And amid the drama of winning and tension of competing, great friendships were born. Not much has changed over the last quarter of a century. Today my Titleist clubs may have graphite shafts, but my passion for the game is unwavering and no matter where in the world our destiny has taken us, those friendships remain as strong.

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5 Comments on “My Early Golf Years

  1. Pingback: A Moment on the Lips « GOLFMADCHICK

  2. Interestingly, the local papers struggled to spell your name right even then. Journalism 101. I wonder how many mistakes there would have been if a Guardian journalist had been let loose in Zim.

    • Rumour is the journo in question was indeed a Guardian reporter on a work exchange programme with the Manica Post!

  3. Hi,
    I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. You were meant to meet up with the brick wall, and look were it has all led to, fantastic. You have been playing golf for a very long time, isn’t it great when we find something that we not only like, but are good at as well. 🙂

    • You’re absolutely right, though I’m not sure my Mum quite sees it that way! Thanks for your help with the vids, I will persevere.

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