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Ask most cricketers what their favourite sport is and they are likely to say golf.
When Jacques Kallis brought up his first double hundred against India in the Centurion Test, he was awarded a lifetime membership to Leopard Creek Country Club. Ricky Ponting has confessed to wanting to play golf seven days a week if he could, and Viv Richards claimed he would rather have been a golfer than a cricketer. So when the Test match between Zimbabwe and Bangladesh ended a day early, it seemed only natural to head to the Royal Harare Golf Club to catch the final round of the Zimbabwe Open.
The course is right next door to the cricket ground, which makes it convenient for those who want to fit in a round after practice. But this weekend, it was not about the wannabes. The Zimbabwe Open is part of the Sunshine Tour, which makes it an important event on the international calendar. Former winners include Vijay Singh and Nick Price, the uncle of spin-bowler Ray Price.
Like many sports in this country, it has also been affected by financial turmoil, and was cancelled for eight years from 2002 to 2009 because of a lack of sponsors. It's now back and attracts a fairly strong field, dominated by South Africans, and a sizeable crowd including many cricketers.
Perhaps most notable among them was former batsman Stuart Carlisle, who now runs Absolute Sports, the golf store attached to the course. Carlisle's company sponsors young Zimbabwean golfer Ryan Cairns, who finished the tournament in joint-seventh spot.
He spoke extensively to the Zimbabwe Open magazine about what he has been up to since his retirement in 2005, and how he sees the future of sport in the country. When Carlisle walked away from cricket he was offered a chance to play in Australia for six months but decided not to because his oldest daughter was due to begin school and "the continued travelling would be unsettling for her".
Instead, he stayed home and began importing food products that were unavailable during some of the country's darkest days. In 2009, the economy 'dollarised' and Carlisle's food business was overtaken by bigger corporates, so he went into sports. "We wanted to focus on supplying top-quality goods that would not only last longer but would offer better performance, specifically for our kids market."
Carlisle is passionate about developing future sports stars, an area he believes is neglected in Zimbabwe. "We have an amazing outdoor climate that is fully conducive to sport, and an abundance of raw talent, but we are not producing enough top-quality sportsmen."
He pointed to a lack of funding, for both government and business sectors, as one of the primary reasons for this. Carlisle highlighted the case of South Africa, where sports bodies are partly backed by money from the national lottery, and said Zimbabwe should look to do the same. "No sports body will succeed without investing in their national team. A successful national team will create excitement among the youth, and attract greater interest and investment."
Zimbabwe's cricket team is an example. Their first-Test victory took place in front of a good crowd and the second Test is expected to be played in front of even more people. The numbers at the golf were equally pleasing. Neither sport is awash with cash, but both have managed to secure small sponsorships and, if results continue positively, Carlisle believes they will draw many more.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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