I was devastated by the death of my fellow Zimbabwean, 26-year-old Lewis Chitengwa, from meningitis on June 30. The color of our skin was different, but it was as if I had lost a little brother. I'd known Lewie since he was 17, and helped sponsor his career. His father, Lewis Muridzo, played professionally in the 1960s and 70s, and since the mid-'80s has managed Windgate Park Golf Course in Harare, where I played as a boy. In 1988 Muridzo told me, "Watch out, Lewie's coming after you." A three-time Zimbabwe amateur champion, Lewie earned a scholarship to Virginia. Golf, however, wasn't his only passion. Lewie wanted to become his family's first college graduate, and in 1998 he did so, earning a degree in African-American studies. Lewie played on the Buy.com tour in 2000 and was 16th this year on the Canadian tour.
No matter what Lewie could've done as a pro, his most significant achievement would've remained winning the '93 South African Amateur. He was the first black to take that event, and he did it only two years after apartheid had been abolished. I jumped for joy when he won. Here was a kid reared in the same junior program as I was, yet he had the chance to influence an entirely different, and much larger, audience. Lewie had impeccable manners and was humble and generous. He gave every penny away that he didn't need to support himself, sending money to numerous charities in the U.S. and back to Zimbabwe for his brother's schooling and to help his parents. I'm going to organize a program with Lewie's name on it for junior golfers back home. He was a special young man, and I want him to be remembered.
Donations to the Lewis Chitengwa Fund should be made out to "Canadian Tour" and sent to the tour at 212 King Street West, Suite 203, Toronto, Ont., M5H 1K5 Canada. Call (416) 204-1564.