June 14, 2015
Charlottesville, Va. – Earlier this month, former Virginia men’s golfer Lewis Chitengwa, Jr., was recognized posthumously for his immense contribution to golf by being inducted into Mercedes-Benz Southern African Golf Hall of Fame. Chitengwa, who passed away 13 years ago at the age of 26, was a four-time letterwinner for the Cavaliers from 1995 to 1998.
Chitengwa was inducted into the class of 2014 with South African golf luminaries Fulton Allem, John Fourie, AE Vernon, Ronnie Glennie and the South Africa Golf Association’s Walter Conyers Kirby. Previous inductees include Gary Player, Bobby Locke, Ernie Els, Nick Price and Sally Little. Player presided over this year’s ceremony, which also featured the ribbon cutting for the association’s new museum.
Chitengwa was a two-time All-American at Virginia (1995, 1996) and earned All-ACC honors in 1995 when he was named the league’s Rookie of the Year. He finished seventh at the 1996 NCAA Championships, at the time the best finish by a UVa performer in 50 years. During his four-year career he won two tournaments and recorded 17 top-10 finishes. In his final year at the University, Chitengwa served as team captain.
Having learned the game from his father, Lewis Sr., an accomplished golf professional from the Wingate Golf Club in Harare, Lewis Jr. had competed on five different continents, representing Zimbabwe in both junior and men’s amateur events, by the time he reached his 18th birthday.
As a junior player, Chitengwa established a name for himself at the 1992 Orange Bowl World Junior Championship by defeating Tiger Woods by three strokes. He won the Zimbabwe Amateur Championship three times and was the first black golfer to win the South Africa Amateur in 1993. After winning the SA Amateur, Chitengwa was an instant hero to all who had suffered under apartheid in South Africa. His victory in South Africa was often referred to as the “African golfing equivalent of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier.”
Chitengwa turned professional in 1998 and played on the Tear Drop, Buy.com and Canadian Tours in addition to competing at the PGA’s St. Jude Memphis Classic. He died on June 30, 2001 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, from a form of meningitis. At the time, he was competing in the Canadian Tour’s Edmonton Open. He became ill after Friday’s second round of competition, was admitted to the Alberta University Hospital on Saturday and passed away that afternoon.
Chitengwa was represented at the ceremony by his parents, two sisters Helga and Rhoda, two brothers, Elias and Farai and his coach at Virginia, Mike Moraghan.