Lewis Chitengwa (1975-2001)

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Lewis Chitengwa was a Zimbabwean golfer who, in 1993, became the first Black person to win the South African Amateur Championship. Chitengwa was born on January 25, 1975, to Lewis Muridzo and an unnamed mother in Harare, Zimbabwe. Chitengwa’s father was an accomplished golf professional from Wingate Golf Club in Harare. He also had four other siblings: two sisters, Helga and Rhoda, and two brothers, Elias and Farai. Much of Chitengwa’s earlier life has yet to be well known. In 1992, 17-year-old Chitengwa participated in the 1992 Orange Bowl World Junior Championship, where he defeated future golf superstar Eldrick “Tiger” Woods after three strokes.

Chitengwa became the first Black golfer to win the South Africa Amateur the following year. After winning the SA Amateur, his victory was often called the “African golfing equivalent of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier.” Chitengwa would win the Zimbabwe Amateur Championship three times during his career. Chitengwa became a two-time All-American at the University of Virginia (1995, 1996) and earned All-ACC honors in 1995 when he was named the league’s Rookie of the Year. He also won the Zimbabwe Men’s National Amateur Championship thrice in 1992, 1993, and 1994. Chitengwa also participated in the 1996 NCAA Long Drive Contest, again defeating Tiger Woods. He also finished seventh at the 1996 NCAA Championships.

During the Fall 1993 semester, he attended Piedmont Community College in Charlottesville, Virginia. The following year, he enrolled at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts in African-American studies. That same year, Chitengwa turned professional and played on the Tear Drop, Buy.com, and Canadian Tours while completing the PGA’s St. Jude Memphis Classic.

Chitengwa was fluent in several languages, including English, Shona, and French. He also studied Japanese, Spanish, Italian, and Swahili. Chitengwa was also a devout Christian who attended bible study regularly. While a student at the University of Virginia, he joined and was baptized at the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1995.

On June 30, 2001, Chitengwa died from meningitis in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, at the age of 26. At the time of his death, he was competing in the Canadian Tour’s Edmonton Open. In 2015, Chitengwa was inducted into the Mercedes Benz Southern Africa Golf Hall of Fame. A scholarship in Lewis’s name was established called the Virginia Student Aid Foundation. In 2022, a golf tournament was named in his honor, called Lewis Chitengwa Memorial Tournament.