Harare-born professional golfer Brendon de Jonge is confirming his growing status as one of the most talented golfers to come out of Zimbabwe as he takes part in the 2013 Presidents Cup, started yesterday at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. The tournament will run until 6 October.
The Presidents Cup is an international event, pitting a team from the United States against a team of non-European international players in match-play competition.
The 33-year old burly golfer earned a spot on the 12-man Internationals team as one of two captain’s picks, announced on 4 September by his compatriot Nick Price, who has been his idol and, more recently, a mentor.
de Jonge is the third Zimbabwean to compete in the Ryder Cup-style event, following Price (1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2003) and Mark McNulty (1994, 1996).
Both Price (captain) and his assistants McNulty and Bulawayo born Tony Johnstone are with him in the International team locker room.
de Jonge was wrestling with his children in the floor of his house in Charlotte, North Carolina, when Price called.
“I didn’t know if it was going to be good news or bad news,” said de Jonge, who left Zimbabwe for the US in 1999 to play his college golf at Virginia Tech University before turning professional in 2003.
“The first thing Nick said was, ‘I hope you’ve got a beer in your hand because you’re on my team.”
de Jonge lists Price as his sports idol and relishes the chance to play on his team.
“I first knew about Nick probably in the early ’90s when I was about 11 or 12,” he said. “He used to come back and play in the Zimbabwe Open every year and I met him for the first time when I was 13. I played the Zim Open when I was 16 when he was coming from the US and we had a chat then but it was all very brief and in passing. In the last five years, I have stayed in close contact with Nick.
“I stay at his house when I play the Honda Classic in Florida and any time I’m struggling he’s definitely the first one I call with regards to golf.”
In August 1994 Price was ranked the world’s No. 1 golfer, a position he held for 43 consecutive weeks, a stretch that since then, has only been bettered by Tiger Woods.
No one won more PGA Tour tournaments in the 90’s than Nick Price, who walked away with 15 titles. He also won an additional 12 international events in that decade.
Price, a former Prince Edward schoolboy knew Brendon’s father, Rick, as a junior when they were members at Warren Hills Golf Club in Harare.
Now 76, the elder de Jonge, a retired banker, said his son was very much into team sports at school.
As a junior de Jonge, who attended St Johns College represented Zimbabwe in cricket but turned to golf when his cricket master said he was spending too much time playing golf.
Looking back, de Jonge will feel he made the right choice as the game of golf has given him both fame and fortune.
de Jonge was last year named Zimbabwe’s sportsperson of the year at the Annual National Sports Awards in Harare significant honour for the then 32-year-old golfer.
He was recognized for his performance in 2012 when he won more than $2 million on the US PGA Tour with four top-10 finishes.
“It was definitely an unexpected surprise,” said de Jonge, whose parents attended the ceremony in Zimbabwe. “It’s really pretty cool.”
He has continued his good run this season, earning a staggering $1,636,844 in 29 events with four top ten finishes which has earned him a place in the Presidents Cup team.