The Sunday News
Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWEAN golfer, Scott Vincent performed way beyond expectations when he finished 16th out of 60 golfers at the just concluded Tokyo Olympics.
For an athlete who was at wrong end of the rankings in the qualifiers, it was a massive achievement for him to finish in the top 20. The 29-year old Vincent even performed better than the South African duo of Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Garrick Higgo.
Just to show how remarkable Vincent was in Tokyo, he was four shots from bronze, six from silver and seven away from securing gold. United States of America’s Xander Schauffele won gold, silver went to South Africa born Slovakian Rory Sabbatini while Pan Cheng-Tsung of the Chinese Taipei took bronze.
Mufaro Chivonivoni, the Zimbabwe Golf Association president who was with Vincent in Japan said they were excited by the golfer’s performance at the Olympics. The ZGA boss outlined that their expectation was for Vincent to finish at least in the top 20.
“We are very satisfied, we were discussing with the rest of the team before the Olympics to say any top 20 would really be a huge achievement and we did manage that and the top 20 was also very close. What he did was not anticipated, that was what we would call a good result was being in the top 20, him managing that was very good. If you look at the score, he was four shots off the bronze medal, which was very commendable that he was very competitive in such a world class field which also highlights that going forward the future is bright for him and Zimbabwean golf,’’ Chivonivoni said.
According to Chivonivoni, Vincent only had a bad five holes on the first day, with the rest of his performance during the rest of the championship being flawless.
“He did start off pretty well, all in all he just had a bad five holes throughout the tournament, that’s just the nature of sport.”
Chivonivoni attributed Vincent’s brilliant show in Tokyo to perfect arrangements, which saw him have at least five days of fine tuning during which he got to acquaint himself with the Kasumigaseki Country Club.
“The arrangements were dealt with perfectly, Scott had five days of practice before the competition started, every day we were getting to the golf course at 8, he would do his routines, either on the range or see the course. Him being a professional golfer he knows what he needs to do and the preparation he put in was thorough, he did not leave anything to chance on the golf course, he went through the layouts, planned his strategy on the range also working on his swing. He was pretty much prepared when the competition started,’’ said Chivonivoni.
While many would have expected ZGA to go on a hill to rejoice over Vincent’s exploits, Chivonivoni feels it would have been better if the other Zimbabwean athletes had also excelled at Tokyo Olympics.
“It is good but it’s also not an area we would really want to celebrate, it would be great that maybe we are celebrating and all the sports codes have done well. He did perform well but we also don’t want to be comparing ourselves in terms of results. The Olympics, it’s a big stage but we should also then focus on the future so say what positives are coming out of it, we might have got the best result but what positives is everyone going to get from the Olympics to help us to achieve the goals of sport as a nation going forward,’’ he said.
Looking ahead to the 2024 Paris Olympics, Chivonivoni said their focus was on getting more Zimbabwe golfers to qualify. Since Vincent is already a professional, he is expected to do well enough to qualify for Paris.
“Scott is already a professional, he is doing what he needs to do to get to Paris. He is playing on the Japanese tour, Asian tour and the European tour so that should get him to Paris. What we are then focusing on are the up and coming professionals who are not yet at that stage, maybe some of the top amateurs to give them some resources so that they can compete at the top level to get enough points to qualify for Paris 2024,’’ Chivonivoni said.
ZGA are looking to work together with the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee to assist golfers they feel have what it takes to make it to Paris 2024.
“There are about three or four amateurs who we think have a chance of qualifying for Paris 2024 so alongside the Zimbabwe Olympics Committee we will see what we can also do to assist them in helping them qualify for Paris 2024.”
Chivonivoni, who was at the Olympics also got to share his experiences at the biggest sporting event in the world.
“From the side of the personal experience, you will obviously be knowing how big an occasion the Olympics is but when you get on the ground you then realise that its bigger than what you actually expected. Logistically, the people involved, it really is something very huge,’’ said Chivonivoni.
ZGA vice president, Martin Chikwana expressed his excitement with Vincent’s brilliant display in Japan.
“We so happy because had expectations but we didn’t put our expectations so high so for us when Scott managed to make it into the top 20, let alone be four shots off the bronze medal, it makes us so happy. It makes all the effort that people have put in, all the effort that Zimbabwe Golf Association have put in, Scott and his team,’’ said Chikwana.
He outlined that there has been a lot of investment from the ZGA in Vincent’s career from the time he was a 10-year old starting to play the sport.
“In terms of investment, there is a lot of investment that went through from being a 10-year old starting to play golf when he comes from junior golf he comes into the amateur ranks where we have programmes that we run throughout the country, every province has got a provincial tournament,’’ Chikwana said.
He paid tribute to all those who have played a part in Vincent’s develop over a 19-year period.
“There are great people that have been in the background, people like Roger Bayliss. Roger has been and was for a long time Scott’s coach from being a 10-year old right up to the amateur ranks until Scott left for university.
“It has been a 19-year investment that has culminated in Scott not only going to the Olympics but putting together such a brilliant performance,” Chikwana said.
Vincent’s performance at the Tokyo Olympics will surely inspire a lot of up and coming golfers in Zimbabwe to aspire to one day compete at the biggest global sporting event. — @Mdawini_29.