The narrow road to glory
Madalitso Muthiya is Zambia’s foremost golf export. Since turning professional in 2005, he has achieved many firsts in golf. Today, he is still on the journey to the pinnacle of one of the most distinguished sports in the world.
Madalitso has the right blend of character, personality and attitude to succeed in golf. Golf is uniquely a lonely sport and does not enjoy the benefits of other team oriented sports. The golfer is accompanied by his caddie through 18 holes and success on the golf course is measured after every shot. Golf requires equal parts physical and mental fitness.
Madalitso’s foundation was laid by his late father, who was an avid golfer. He recalls sneaking away with his brother to play golf in the backyard using his father’s equipment. The boys’ mischievous act went unnoticed until they broke a window during one of their backyard sessions. The brothers’ interest in golf got their fathers attention and he began to teach them the basics and etiquette of the game.
The young Muthiya enjoyed great success as a junior golfer winning many tournaments in his age group under the Zambian flag. He then went on to play for the University of New Mexico in the United States with the help of James Roth, a consultant who worked in Zambia at the time and late republican President Frederick Chiluba.
The story of Madalisto Muthiya’s professional journey is well known, but what is least talked about is the man behind the game. Madalisto is perfectly suited for the game of golf with his assured and introspective approach to life. He is currently based in Johannesburg, South Africa pursuing golf full-time. On a given day, Madalisto is either playing in a tournament or preparing for one. He has a schedule comparable to a corporate executive often getting on the course early in morning and leaving at the end of the day. This self-management keeps him ready for whatever the game throws at him. Madalitso is also an avid reader of self-help and personal development books which help him sharpen his mentality and character.
Reflecting on his career, he still believes that he could have achieved more. “At this stage I should be a winner on the PGA and the European Tour. But I believe the peaks and the valleys are part of the dream” he says reflectively. Regardless of his personal assessment, he has achieved many great milestones in his career. He is the first Zambian and African to play on the US open, he is a winner on the Sunshine Tour and recorded a top ten finish in the South African Open. He also qualified to play on the European Tour which is one of the leading men’s professional golf tours in the world.
However, his journey has not been without challenges. He lost his father at the age of 19 while still adjusting to the rigor of being a student athlete. The loss of his father was particularly difficult as he was still finding his feet in the United States. Apart from personal challenges, professional challenges have also impacted his golfing career. The travel limitations of the Zambian passport have limited the countries Madalisto can compete in. He has missed out on tournaments completely due to visa requirements for Zambian citizens which has further delayed his progress.
As a self-sponsored athlete, Madalitso has learned financial management the hard way. A full golf season costs approximately $60,000 including equipment, travel and various fees that Madalitso handles personally. However, he is taking this in his stride and using these challenges to fuel his success. Madalitso has learned to be self-reliant, which is probably the best way to describe him. He is forging ahead in his career with immense fortitude. “What you do and who you are two different things. You have to continually add value to yourself so that you can depend on yourself” he says regarding his approach to the challenges he has faced.
Whether Madalitso Muthiya has succeeded as a golfer is up for debate. But the only true measure of Madalitso’s success is himself. According to him, success is about how you touch people and what you do as a person and not what you achieve. It is about living a quality life, a productive life and being able to sleep at night knowing that you gave everything. He firmly believes everything good will be attacked and it is up to the holder of the gift to defend it aggressively and take care of it.
Madalitso’s impact goes beyond his achievements on the golf course. He is also actively giving back to the country that birthed his dream. His foundation has been involved with charity organisations such as City of Hope and the Albino Society in Zambia, raising funds through golf tournaments and social events. There are also plans for more philanthropic efforts in 2022 barring the effects of COVID-19.
All in all, one article is not enough to accurately underscore Madalitso Muthiya’s place in Zambian sporting history. Here stands a man who has succeeded in a sport reserved for the elite few and still continues on his quest for more. Unlike soccer’s popularity among Zambians, Madalitso’s triumphs are not celebrated on the national stage. His journey is a quiet pursuit towards personal triumph and self-mastery in a world that is unforgiving and sometimes discriminatory. But if there is someone that embodies all the qualities to succeed in professional golf, with all the odds stacked against them, it is Madalitso Muthiya.