Women golf’s first black boss

But, true to the old adage, you would be very wrong to judge this book by its cover. The exterior belies an ambitious sports administrator who, against the background of success in both family and business spheres, is determined to use her new public office to record more success.

Jessie Nyakatawa is the new president of the Zimbabwe Ladies’ Golf Union (ZLGU). She takes over at the beginning of next month from Helen van Rensburg, under whose tenure she served as executive officer. She is quick to point out that while it sounds like that, the office, like all the others in the ZLGU, is voluntary and part-time.

What does the new office hold for Nyakatawa? Well, it is more a question of what she intends to do during her tenure.

“Development, development and development,” she emphasises. “A sport is only as strong as the numbers that play it. We want to take this game to all corners of the country and to all communities, with emphasis on the girl-child.”

It is a project that Nyakatawa started last year when she applied for money from the golf world body, the Royal and Ancient, to drive a junior development project. Under that scheme, six golfers underwent a “train the trainer” programme. They are now out and about, working to get the game going at the grass-roots level.

Nyakatawa is one of those. She works with about 50 girls on the edge of the Zimbabwe capital, not just taking golf to them but in so doing also doing her bit to bridge the gap between the sprawling high-density suburb of Hatcliffe with its match-box houses and dusty streets and the nearby, but seemingly world apart, multi-storeyed mansions and leafy avenues of Borrowdale where she herself resides.

One of the country’s leading amateur golfers and a member of the Zimbabwe Eisenhower team that took part in this year’s event in South Africa recently, Julius Kamalizeni, helps Nyakatawa to run the Hatcliffe golf school.

Just under 30 minutes drive out of the capital is another project. Esther Dzingai is preaching the gospel of golf to women and girls in the Mashonaland West town of Norton and the surrounding schools.

Nyakatawa is evaluating the national scheme: “Yes, lack of awareness is a major challenge and we are fighting that now but we should not lose sight of the fact that golf needs to be resourced in a bigger way than other sports. We are keen therefore not to just give these girls a taste of the game and move on to the next area, but to ensure that we put up facilities and equip the players with what they need to continue learning and then competing.”

She has already embarked on that step in Hatcliffe where she is roping in the charity organisation, Rotarians, to put up a three-hole practice course.

“Afterwards, I will bring in professional players to help the ladies to take their game to a higher level,” added Nyakatawa.

Having nurtured her two children to university graduation, Jessie Nyakatawa is determined that many women around Zimbabwe, who in the past did not have access to the sport, graduate in golf and take their place on the ZLGU Order of Merit where she is currently sixth, and one of only three blacks in the top 10.

November 2006
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