MacDonald Representing Zimbabwe In World Amateur
During Time Of Economic, Political Strife Back Home
October 6, 2008
By Andrew Blair
Zimbabwe's Nicholas MacDonald came to the United States
to pursue his dream of playing professional golf.
Though he'd been to Florida once for a junior event, he
left his native land - alone - in his mid-teen years after
being recruited by Virginia Tech on a golf scholarship. His
introduction to Blacksburg, Va., was seemingly as swift and
powerful as his golf swing. For one thing, he'd never seen
snow before, until experiencing it during the first
semester of his freshman season.
"I knew what it was, but I'd never seen it
personally," he says. "The winters here - I've
never seen anything like it in my life. It's pretty cold in
A new climate wasn't the only thing with which he had to
get acclimated. In addition to golf, he grew up playing
cricket, squash, hockey and rugby, but never experienced
American football before being inoculated into Hokie
"I'm used to rugby and now there's people passing a
ball forward, all kinds of things" MacDonald laughs
today. "I had no idea what was going on, but I've
learned to love it."
If America is the land of opportunity, MacDonald has
made the most of the chances he's earned with a strong work
ethic, playing in every tournament during his four-year
Tech career before using up his golf eligibility last
spring. He's excelled in the classroom as well. A business
administration major, he'll complete his degree
requirements at the school this fall.
On the course, his game continues to prosper and he was
selected by the Zimbabwe Golf Association to represent his
native country at the World Amateur Team Championship Oct.
16-19 in Australia. On a personal basis, MacDonald speaks
glowingly of his younger brother, Marc, who recently won
the Zimbabwe Amateur and hopes to someday play college golf
in the U.S. The two will comprise the two-thirds of
Zimbabwe's squad at the World Amateur.
But away from golf, MacDonald carries concerns about his
native land that is seemingly a shadow of its former self,
democratic in name only. Political differences have ravaged
Zimbabwe, resulting in an economic crisis that has affected
his dad's plastics manufacturing company, which is sadly on
the verge of collapse. The economy itself is suffering from
hyperinflation. Many, including MacDonald, viewed the
country's recent presidential elections as fraudulent.
This summer, the country ran out of paper to print
money, and in reality, there's nothing to buy for even
those who have some form of currency by other means. With
impoverished areas facing famine from the lack of food in
the shops, some people are bringing in goods from South
Africa, a 10- to 12-hour transport by car.
To hear these struggles, including an 80 percent
unemployment rate, it's easy to count one's blessings. Even
though MacDonald admits "home is home," he
considers himself lucky to be in Blacksburg and away from
the economic and political strife.
"I've got an education behind me now and it's
improved my golf tenfold," he says. "If I had to,
I would do it all over again."
Already impressed with MacDonald's game, Virginia Tech
golf coach Jay Hardwick was also struck by MacDonald's
demeanor the first time he met his prospective recruit 4Â½
"He took his hat off when he shook my hand,"
Hardwick recalls. "I thought, 'This is the kind of
young man that I'd like to be around for four years.' He
had a very good golf game, but was also very
"He never won our most dedicated player award any
one year, but if I ever gave one for a career, he probably
would've won it hands-down. Coming from a Third World
country, he's seen conditions that some kids have never
dreamed of. He's always mature about his golf game and
life, and [he] has kept it all in perspective."
Despite its problems, his chance to represent Zimbabwe
in a prestigious international team competition is
something he looks forward to in the fall.
"Even though there are certain things that I'd like
to change, I've still got pride in my country," he
At U.S. Amateur Championship sectional qualifying this
summer, MacDonald's approach shot at Salisbury Country
Club's par-5 17th hole landed in an embankment and
unluckily bounded into the water. The resulting bogey cost
him a shot at playing the Amateur by one stroke.
MacDonald has since recovered from the disappointing
setback. Now he's hoping his country and people can do the
"I'd like to see it get back to where it used to be
with a thriving economy," he says. "All the
pictures from a long time ago are beautiful. It had all the
resources you could want
mining, agriculture, great tourist attractions. You can see
One doesn't have to look very far to know that MacDonald
is one of his country's most valuable assets.
Andrew Blair is the director of communications for the
Virginia State Golf Association and editor of Virginia
Golfer magazine. His work has appeared previously on