The esteemed Hatcliffe Girls Development Trust (HGDT) that brought us household names like Shamiso Makwara and the award winning female amateur golfer Yolanda Mubaiwa is the brain child of Pro Golfer, 58 year old Jessie Nyakatawa. The HGDT initiative was started in 2006 by Nyakatawa when she was the president of the Zimbabwe Ladies Golf Union (ZLGU). It targeted girls from the high density suburb of Hatcliffe who could not afford to play golf.
One of the core aims of the initiative was to dispel the myth that golf is an elitist sport and to support talent among the less privileged. The initiative was nominated in the recent inaugural golf awards hosted by the Zimbabwe Golf Association running under the theme, “Celebrating Golf Excellency”.
Nyakatawa stopped the programme for two years between 2010 and 2012. The programme has now restarted and has since changed its name to Hatcliffe High Performance Centre (HHPC) and now provides lessons for boys as well. The initiative has received sponsorship to help the children with golf regalia, golf clubs, transport, membership fees and funds to take part in tournaments.
Since she restarted the programme it has been recognized by influential individuals and organisations but it hasn’t received much funding. “I have been running this programme on a shoestring budget and I have had to bankroll it from my own funds. The parents help with their children’s transport fees sometimes,” said Mrs Nyakatawa.
An interview with her revealed that her passion for golf and her care for the children are the only things that have kept the HHPC initiative running for so long. “Even if there is no funding I can`t just abandon the kids who are so eager to learn about the sport. The Borrowdale Brooke Golf Club Management and a few well wishers have been very supportive.”
One of the parents whose child is a beneficiary of the HHPC initiative applauded the programme saying that it plays an important role in keeping the children off the streets. But the training session for the children was a sad sight as they were not wearing proper golf attire, had no cool drinks and since they had been at the golf course since early morning some had not had a proper meal.
One of the amateur golfers said, “The corporate world has been reluctant to support talent from the grassroots level and as a result very few Zimbabwean golfers turn professional. So we find that even our prestigious local tournaments are flooded with more foreigners than locals.” This year’s recent Zimbabwe Open Golf Tournament attracted more than 156 golfers of which only 31 golfers were from Zimbabwe.
During the interview with Nyakatawa she stressed that sponsoring a junior golfer costs less than sponsoring soccer or many other sports, “Sponsoring a junior golfer would cost around US$500 for the whole year inclusive of the club membership, transport, food, accommodation and tournament fees and other essentials.”