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"My family was lucky not to have faced any violence when the war veterans came for the farm," says McNulty. "I can't say that they were respectful, but [my relatives] weren't harmed. Others were not as fortunate. We knew people who were killed because they stood their ground. I was never hesitant to return to Zimbabwe, but I was angry and did stay away in the mid-2000s." McNulty took up Irish citizenship in 2003 (through a maternal grandmother) because he could not renew his Zimbabwean passport as a non-resident.
Johnstone, who plays the European Senior Tour and works for Sky Sports in the United Kingdom as a golf analyst, still considers himself a Zimbabwean but travels on a British passport after his Zim passport was stolen. "It's an absolute travesty what has happened in Zimbabwe, and worst of all the world just looks on," says Johnstone. "Zim used to be known as the breadbasket of Africa -- now it's the basket-case of the continent. But I still go back for two weeks every year. It's very painful to see my country's downfall, but it's my homeland and I love spending time in the bush [on safari]."
Johnstone is like many tourists to Zimbabwe who seldom feel their safety is threatened despite the "high risk/extreme risk" security notification issued by authorities to potential travelers.
As Price and McNulty began contemplating Champions Tour careers, Zimbabwe needed new talent to continue the country's golf legacy into the new millennium, and they found it in Lewis Chitengwa, who was a perfect representation of the country's demographics. It's easy to miss the Lewis Muridzo Chitengwa Golf Academy at Wingate Park GC, where Lewis Chitengwa Sr. teaches the game. It consists of a forlorn one-room building behind the practice tee, where Chitengwa Sr. has taught juniors and Wingate members for the last 30 years, including de Jonge, now 33, from age 5.
In 1992 the younger Chitengwa defeated Tiger Woods head-to-head in the final round of the Orange Bowl junior championship, and a year later became the first black golfer to win the South African Amateur Championship. A two-time All-American college career followed at Virginia before he turned pro.
But in 2001, only 26, Chitengwa died in tragic circumstances. Showing flu-like symptoms after the second round of the Canadian Tour's Edmonton Open, Chitengwa Jr. slipped into a coma and died from a rare and deadly form of meningitis. "I guarantee you, he would have been a tournament winner on the PGA Tour," Price told Golf Digest following Chitengwa Jr.'s death. "He had determination and intensity, and he had a great short game. Guys with great short games win golf tournaments."
Lewis Sr. invited Golf World into his self-described dilapidated house, 150 yards from the academy at Wingate. The Orange Bowl trophies sit proudly in the home, but the family is suffering financially due to golf's decline in Zimbabwe. Lewis Sr. and wife Josephine are understandably reluctant to comment on the Mugabe regime, opting to cling to the hope that life will start to improve for their embattled homeland.
Despite the best efforts of Baylis and Chitengwa Sr., promising Zimbabwean golfers are now forced to go the U.S. collegiate route to progress in amateur golf. Current Zimbabwean talent on scholarships includes Scott Vincent (a junior at Virginia Tech), Ray Badenhorst and Brett Krog (Florida Tech, a junior and sophomore, respectively) and Ben Follet-Smith (Mississippi State, freshman).
"I'm cynical and pessimistic about my country now," Price says. "Mugabe has such a lock on power that it will take a long time to get some form of prosperity back, even after he is gone. My generation bore the brunt of both the [Ian] Smith and Mugabe ideologies. I lost friends and acquaintances in a war that I didn't totally agree with. But my dad and two brothers are buried there, and I was very proud to represent my country on the world stage, especially when we played together as a team at the World Cup and Dunhill Cup."
Price wishes he could have given back more to golf in Zimbabwe, considering the huge pool of talent that still exists among the youth. "There are probably 100 kids with the athletic ability of Tiger Woods in my country," he says excitedly. Perhaps he will be able to contribute to the rebuilding of his country one day. Despite the daily rigors of living, there is still an overall sentiment of hope and aspiration among a resilient people.
It may take a political regime change or intervention from a foreign power to avoid more golf clubs disintegrating into the African landscape, but for now, the kids who swing away freely on Lewis Chitengwa Sr.'s practice range can still dream of emulating the names they see on the honor boards within Zimbabwean clubhouses.
Barry Havenga is the assistant editor of Golf Digest South Africa.