Over 150 intellectually challenged children from schools around Harare are now learning to play golf, thanks to the Royal Harare Golf Club (RHGC), up from 30 children in 2008.
Director of Golf at RHGC Mike Baylis is delighted at its popularity. “We had to divide the groups since we didn’t have the space. We approached Cathy Riley at Chapman Golf Club and she agreed to take on the project there. They now have approximately 70 participants.”
The coaching staff operates on a voluntary basis, including professionals like Baylis.
One of the coaches Tich Musemburi said, “It’s not easy to coach intellectually challenged children because they are not always 100 percent in the mood but I look forward to each Thursday because as a professional golfer it’s my own way of giving back to society.”
Competitions are lined up throughout the year to challenge participants to work hard.
“In the first schooling term we go to Bulawayo. Through a qualification competition, we select our top 10 participants who will compete with players from Bulawayo. The boys and girls always look forward to this,” said Baylis.
In the second term, intellectualy challenged children hold their provincial tournament. It will take place at Chapman’s on 5 August. They will compete in different categories to win medals. Participants will be selected to compete in the national finals in the third term.
It is hard for these children to go professional, however outstanding players participate in national junior tournaments and club level golf.
For the first time, last year four intellectually challenged golfers were taken to South Africa to participate in the country’s national finals where they grabbed two gold medals.
After that tournament Munya Musariri, a student at Prince Edward who scooped one of the two medals in the 9 holes category, came home to win an award for Young Sportsmen with Disability.
“I am really happy to be part of many competitions, winning medals and travelling to different places. I would like to thank our coaches who encourage us to do really well,” said Musariri.
All of these activities are building up to the 2015 Special Olympics which are to be held in Los Angeles.
“We travel to Bulawayo and South Africa so that these guys get used to travelling to other countries, staying in hotels and competing with players, taking them out of their comfort zone so that they will not get overwhelmed when the time comes to compete at the Special Olympics,” said Baylis.
As well as giving a chance to participate at the highest level, the program also acts as a refresher for the children giving them a chance to mingle.
Some of the schools participating include Vimbanashe, Gateway, Prince Edward, Sunshine Projects, Churchill, Batsirai, St Cathrines and Kuwadzana 1 Primary.
“It’s a very good thing that these guys are participating. They really enjoy it. You can see the enthusiasm every time they come here which is good because all we want is to put smiles on their faces,” said Simon Chigorimbo assistant coach at RHGC.
Toyota is the sole sponsor of this programme and is responsible for funding all the tournaments at provincial and national level.
“We are calling on the corporate world to come on board and support us so that we can nurture these talents further,” said Edmore Bakare, a Specialist Teacher for People with Disability at Prince Edward.