The story of the other Charamba

Tinashe Kusema and Jeffrey Murimbechi
To the average observer, the just-ended Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Golf Open was more than just your run-of-the-mill sporting event, but a spectacle filled with its own sights, sounds and swings.
Among those numerous sights on display were the black and red jaguars, the cosmopolitan of diverse people of different races and creeds.

This is not to forget the golf action itself.

However, among the numerous visuals, the one that stood out like a sore thumb was a shabby-looking chap walking toe to toe with Zimbabwe’s top hopeful Tongoona Charamba.

Somewhere in his mid-30s, he was tall, dark and had a moustache that would rival even the great Australian cricketer Mitchell Johnson’s.

The man was dressed in a caddy Golden Pilsener vest, what looked like a black golf shirt inside and brown shoes that looked as if they had been up and down the hill.

Appearance aside, it was his uncharacteristic bond with Zimbabwe top golfer Charamba that really  made him stand out.

Unlike the other caddies on the course, he was in the thick of the action.

Tongoona struck a look of deep concern, occasionally nodding in approval.

Often, the two shared long sessions of whispers between holes.

Efforts to track down the man proved an intricate and possibly futile mission, but last week The Sunday Mail Sport sat down with Zimbabwe golfing ace Tongoona Charamba, known in other circles as the other Charamba, and the tale he told of his ‘‘partner in crime’’ was both tragic and fascinating in equal measure.

The man in question happens to be Tongoona’s older brother Tichaona, a former amateur golfer himself, and the man solely responsible for getting the former on the course.

The story of the Charamba brothers is more of an origins story, as Tichaona was responsible for introducing Tongoona to golf.

“For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to be a doctor; I plan to one day return to my studies and pursue some sort of academic profession.

“As for the golf thing, it wasn’t really in my future but we were exposed to it early as we stayed at the Morris Depot Police Camp which had a golf club,” said Tongoona.

“My brother was the first person to actually pursue the sport as he would spend most of his time at the course, caddy for the players and play with the caddies every Monday, I think.

“I remember the very first day I went there and to be honest it’s actually a funny story. My parents were looking for him and he seemed to be nowhere to be found.

“I went there to inform him that he was wanted but when I got there he decided to teach me how to play as a means to delay going back home.

“At the time I was playing football and had been selected into the Zimbabwe Under-16 football team that was scheduled to travel to Egypt three days later, but when I held that club for the first time, I fell in love with the sport and actually quit everything else immediately,” he said.

So began the feisty romance between the Charamba boys and golf.

“We began to read as many golf magazines as possible and would bend metal rods to practice with, using golf balls my brother would bring with him home from the course. It later became sort of a means to make up for everything we would be going through like losing our parents very early and our poor background.

“Sometimes we would sneak onto the course and practise before being chased away by security and club members,” said the younger Charamba.

Unfortunately, their career trajectory then took different paths as Tongoona went on to find success and fame on the course, while the elder brother slowly sunk into obscurity, only to resurface years later as a caddy.

“My brother was one heck of a sportsman in his youth and excelled in everything he did. I remember he played football and tennis and was also a very good athlete and gymnast. In fact, I think he played and excelled in every sport except rugby.

“The problem arose when it came to committing to something; I remember he would be into football today, play a golf tournament tomorrow but leave in the middle while leading, only to leap onto something else the following week or month.

“I always tell him if he had committed to a single sport he would have been famous or successful.

For Tongoona, his story has been told but a thousand times: he held his first golf club in 1995, turned professional in 2003 and he has two Sunshine Tour victories (2006’s South African Invitational and the Namibian PGA in 2008)
The brothers are back together on the course and look set to embark on the journey they began as one.

“Mainly because my brother doesn’t travel with me outside Zimbabwe, I have three caddies mainly; a guy called Nelson, an old friend Shepard Limbikani and my brother. Tichaona carries for me locally.

“Depending on what level you play, a caddy can be someone who merely carries your bag but at professional level it has to be someone who understands the game and his player. He has to understand the golf swing itself and is always ready to chip in with advice and tips.

“This is why I trust my brother to carry for me, he has all those attributes and I trust him fully,’ said Tongo.

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