LEWIS Chitengwa, who as a youngster once defeated the world’s greatest golfer of all time, Tiger Woods, has been remembered again for his prodigious talent, 22 years after his tragic and sudden death in Canada before a tournament in 2001.
Chitengwa died of meningitis in Edmonton on 30 June 2001 at the age of 26 to send multitudes of adoring fans across the globe into mourning.
A young Chitengwa beat Tigers Woods at the Orange Bowl in 1992 to announce his arrival as a future superstar of the game who was tipped to go on to become one of the sport’s greatest.
In 1993, Chitengwa made history when he won the South Africa Amateur, the first black golfer to achieve the feat, and two years after the end of apartheid, at that.
In a PGA Tour programme by broadcaster Jacques Slade this week during the Lewis Chitengwa Memorial Golf Tournament in Charlottesville, Virginia, coach Mike Moraghan spoke in awe of the young Zimbabwean’s famous victory in South Africa.
“For Lewis, as a black kid to go in there, a black kid from Zimbabwe, winning the national championship, was very much like Jesse Owens (iconic African-American track-and-field champion) winning gold medals in front of Hitler,” said Moraghan, who coached Chitengwa at the University of Virginia.
“Black folks, white folks, rushed to the green, lifted him up and carried him off the golf course, and he became an instant hero to folks in sub-Saharan Africa.” Back at his US base, Chitengwa continued on his journey to stardom, which was fatefully cut shot.
“Lewis would have won Majors on the PGA Tour had he lived,” added Moraghan.
“He was a rare fantastic talent. He could pump the ball, he was always amongst the longest drivers at any level and had a great imagination.”
Chitengwa was admitted to the University of Alberta Hospital and died less than an hour later. “It was horrific, it was horrendous for everyone who knew him, loved him and spent time with him,” commented Moraghan.
“To hear this news that he had died suddenly was shocking. It was heart-wrenching.”
Chitengwa is inducted into the Southern African Hall of Fame alongside such global greats of the game as fellow Zimbabwean Nick Price as well as South Africans Ernie Els and Gary Player. — STAFF WRITER/SPORTSCAST