Rhodah Muridzo inspired by her past

HARARE – It in no use to live in the shadows of one’s past but what is important is use those experiences; whether nasty or pleasant as an inspiration to do greater things.

This is what Zimbabwe’s sole professional female golfer Rhodah Muridzo has done as she seeks to inspire not only her daughters but the country’s current and future generations.

A single mother of three, Muridzo has suffered great personal tragedy but that has not distracted her from achieving her aspirations.

“I had three daughters and a son, but lost my second born daughter Natasha last year on the 3rd of May 2018; she was 19 years-old and she played golf, won her first event in Bulawayo in 2013,” she tells the Daily News on Sunday.

“She was a member at Chapman Golf Club and went as far as playing in the Zambia Ladies Open in 2017.

“My first born is Chaurice Wadzanai, she’s at Africa University studying Social Work. Then I have a son Godwin Kuzivakwashe, he is 11 years old and also a great golfer, and my youngest daughter is Hillary Makanaka, she’s two years old and already has her Barbie Golf Set.”

When she was still young, Muridzo missed out on an opportunity to study on a golf scholarship at the United States’ Virginia University after she fell pregnant — subsequently missing out on bigger opportunities of playing in the Ladies PGA Tour.

“I’m sure had I gone ahead with the scholarship, yes I would probably be on the Ladies PGA Tour, but at times there are things that happen so that when you have experienced something you can always teach others to do things differently,” she says.

“I don’t regret not having gone on the scholarship as I have a beautiful daughter, who has managed to surpass the level I got to and is in university doing mighty exploits. I had to start by teaching my own not to miss opportunities and yes today I’m a proud mum.

“This is the reason I have a heart for the girl child so that I can also advise them on the way to go if they ever want to take golf seriously.

“For girls they can easily lose their focus over too many things and that’s why starting junior development at a very young age helps them to stay focused.

“Golf is a male-dominated sport and yes my job right now as I teach them is to guard them against vices of the world and focus on their future and teach them that they can also make it as golf professionals and have a better future through this game.”

Muridzo, who is based at Chapman Golf Club, comes from a golf dynasty.

Her father Lewis Snr is a veteran Wingate Golf Club professional, who is held in high esteem and widely regarded as one of the best coaches in the country.

Her late sibling Lewis Jnr was posthumously inducted into the Southern Africa Golf Hall of Fame in Cape Town in 2015.

Another of her siblings Farayi is also a winner on the local professional golf circuit, the Zambezi Tour.

Given her family background there is no surprise that Muridzo fell in love with the art at a tender age of 10.

Three years later, she earned her first Zimbabwe junior national golf cap culminating in numerous successes that has seen her fulfil her dream of turning professional.

“I believe that both my dad and late brother Lewis Jnr laid a foundation for me and it made it easy for me to play the game, no matter where I went in Africa seeds had already been sown for me and it actually worked in my favour,” she says.

“When I started representing the country, my focus changed and I shifted from just being a national player, and I had a dream now to become the first black lady golf professional, which I accomplished in 2008.

“Also having a father who was already a professional and a brother who had started making history after beating Tiger Woods, there’s no way that I could have only thought of just being a national player but also had to aim higher and that’s where the dream to become the first black lady golf professional came to into play.”

Lewis Jnr beat an amateur Woods by three shots to win the 1992 Orange Bowl World Junior Tournament in Miami, United States.

Muridzo’s only regret though is being a lonely female professional golfer.

“Being the only female playing professionaly at one point I asked myself why I had become a golf professional as there weren’t any other women professionals at the time I became a professional, so it pushed me to travel outside Zimbabwe to South Africa and play in the Ladies Sunshine Tour in 2015,” she says.

“I had to fulfil the dream by competing with other lady professionals and thank God for the experience and exposure that I had.

“The difference between the two (professional and amateur) is that as an amateur you only go as far as playing for the nation, win trophies, shields, and other prizes that are not monetary, but as a professional it’s more work because that becomes your livelihood as you only play for money.”

The opportunity to play on the Ladies Sunshine Tour came after Muridzo’s interaction with Women’s Professional Golf Association president Karen Olivant during the Regional All Africa Challenge Trophy in Namibia in May 2015.

“For me turning professional has assisted in that golf is a male dominated sport, but now as a female I can reach out to the girl-child and women, and finding it easy to have them play the sport because I have become an example for them especially the young ones that if I have done it, they can also do it,” she says.

“That was a divine golf event for me, as I received the contacts to get the invite to play in the Ladies South African Sunshine Tour from Karen. The mention of her name as my reference to the organisers made it easy for me to receive the invite to play.”

On the Ladies Sunshine Tour, she had a debut to remember as she managed to make the cut and earn her first pay cheque.

“The money price list was up to 40 players only 30 of us played and I came 30th which was not good but I was happy as it was my first event and I still managed to walk away with a cheque,” Muridzo says.

“I guess I was very nervous as most of the spotlight was on me as they were all excited to see an entry for the first time from Zimbabwe, but the experience was amazing, and I would still love to go back and play on the Sunshine Tour.”

Besides training and fine-tuning her game, Muridzo is also a coach for the Zimbabwe Junior Girls and secretary for Zimbabwe Junior Golfers Association.

“Yes my drive is the girl-child, we need more girls to play golf, and once we start them at a very young age they will not be side-tracked by all these other things,” she says.

“Train up a child in the way to go, and as they get older they will not depart from it so we need to catch them at a young age from three or four years there about.

“My greatest achievement when I look back was going to play in the Ladies Sunshine Tour in 2015. I got a chance to play with other female professionals and that gave me confidence and justified my reasons for becoming a golf professional.

“It wasn’t just about the title but I had to also fulfil the dream by participating. Other memorable events were having represented Zimbabwe at a young age.

“It’s just my pride and joy knowing that I raised our flag high at such a young age and the other events I played in thereafter.

“I won some Matchplay tournaments as well as the Mash East Ladies Golf tournament that we played in Marondera. That win for me was critical because I was on the short list to go and play in Kenya and it was an automatic qualifier for me to make it into the team.”

She is now looking forward to playing in the South African Women’s Open but lack of sponsorship is threatening to throw spanners in her path.

“There’s the biggest event which is the Investec South African Women’s Open and it has the biggest paying cheque which will be played in March this year and I would love to at least play in two events this year,” she says.

“It’s all to do with sponsorship. The first event I sponsored myself and went to the extent of selling my car just to participate in the SA Open which we played in Durban at San Lameer Golf and Country Club.

“When it comes to sponsorship there’s a lot that’s involved. It’s your upkeep during the tournaments. You need time to practice prior to the event. You need a place to stay, you have to eat and you have to travel to and from the events.

“There’s also competition or entry fees to be paid for every event you play in and also caddie fees for all the tournaments and not forgetting that you need the right qualified golf clubs for the event and all the other accessories, so these are not small amounts if you really want to go out there and bring a cheque every time you play.

“A sponsor is key because your job as a golf professional is to just play golf and bring the money home. You don’t have to worry about expenses and you can focus on your game knowing that everything else has been taken care of by my sponsor.”

Her parting shot to the parents was to encourage their kids to explore every sporting discipline until they come up with their personal and favourite choice.

“All I want to say to the parents out there is that, they have to give every child an opportunity to play the sport they would love to play at a young age,” she says.

“You will only realise what your child would like to do at a young age. When I say sport I’m not only talking about golf but all disciplines.

“At a young age they are more flexible, and focused, and am sure any coach will agree with me that to develop a child in any sport from a young age is much easier than when a child has grown up.”

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