By KALUMIANA KALUMIANA –
THE opening round of the 2018 Mopani/Redpath Zambia Golf Open has thrown up an interesting draw with defending champion Riekus Nortje and local envoy Madalitso Muthiya teeing off together this morning.
The duo would hit the Nkana Golf Club course in Kitwe at 07:20 hours at the 10th tee with pressure on the South African to try and replicate his 2017 form while Muthiya battles for his first top ten finish since his runner up placing in 2006.
Muthiya said playing alongside the defending champion is not a distraction and it will be just like any other day at the office.
“I don’t think it will be a distraction at all, he is just a playing competitor and golf is an individual sport. Obviously, he won the tournament here last year and that was actually his breakthrough on the tour as well,” Muthiya said.
Last year’s triumph remains 27-year-old Norjte’s only win on the Sunshine Tour to date and he failed to make the cut at the Zanaco Masters in Lusaka fortnight ago.
“I am quite confident, I will try my best to defend it and do my best. If it happens it happens, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t,” Nortje said.
And both Muthiya and Nortje have interesting company at the 10th tee this morning in the form of 52-year-old 2007 South Africa Open winner James Kingston who has 12 career tours wins under his belt.
“He (Kingston) is a great guy I have numerous times played with him on the Sunshine Tour and he is a friend as well,” Muthiya said in an interview.
“He is one of the best golf ambassadors on the continent and he is a class act and I am actually looking forward to playing with him as well.”
However, spotlight would also be on another South African JJ Senekal who won the inaugural Zanaco Masters two weeks ago in Lusaka.
Senekal also currently leads this seasons Sunshine Tour Order of Merit and finished fifth at last year’s Zambia Open in Kitwe plus he has been a constant top 10 finisher on the tour over the years.
He would tee-off at 11:50 hours together with compatriot Bryce Easton who is number two on the 2018 Order of Merit.
Meanwhile, SHAMAOMA MUSONDA writes that Sports Minister Moses Mawere has called on more Zambians to take up golf and start challenging for titles at big tournament like the Zambia Open.
Speaking in Kitwe after playing the front nine of the Nkana Golf Club in the Sandvik Zambia Pro-Am, Mawere said that it was time a lot more Zambians took up the golf clubs so they the ‘capital flight’ can be controlled.
“It is unfortunate that we see that so much money is invested in a tournament like this one and almost all the money is won by South Africans. We as a government would like to see more Zambians taking up this game and start winning these tournaments,” he said.
Mawere, who is also on the Copperbelt to check on various sports facilities, praised Nkana Golf Club for having a vibrant junior golf programme which was churning out a lot of youth that will be handy in the near-future in.