Its a First Zambias Muthiya in US Open

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U.S. OpenMAMARONECK, N.Y. -- Madalitso Muthiya fully understands the historic significance of his presence in the U.S. Open.
 
Muthiya is justifiably proud of being the first person to represent Zambia in this prestigious tournament. Yet he would prefer to focus on his golf game rather than contemplate his place in African lore.
 
'Probably after the tournament I'll realize what a great accomplishment this is,' Muthiya said Tuesday. 'I haven't fully realized it because I'm trying to compete at the same time. That's why I'm here.'
 
Muthiya, 23, qualified by grabbing one of the top two spots in the sectional qualifier in Columbus, Ohio. Playing in the U.S. Open is the culmination of a career that began 14 years earlier in a country he says has 17 golf courses serving a population of nine million.
 
As a 9-year-old, Muthiya took his father's clubs without asking and whacked balls in the yard until he broke a bedroom window. Instead of punishing his son, Peter Muthiya (who died in 2002) got him a set of clubs.
 
'It was just something my dad gathered from different people,' Muthiya said. 'They were like juniors' clubs, ladies' clubs, really light with pink grips.'
 
At the time, Madalitso also played soccer. But a doctor told him he had bad knees and should give up the sport.
 
So Muthiya's set out to improve his golf game, and that ultimately ended his fascination with soccer.
 
'I happened to fall in love more with golf,' he said.
 
When Muthiya was 15, he began winning tournaments. The president of Zambia at the time, Frederick Chiluva, invited the teenager to the State House and asked him about his future in golf.
 
Muthiya expressed a desire to further his career in the United States, and Chiluva arranged to have Muthiya play in a juniors tournament in Florida.
 
Much to everyone's surprise, Muthiya won it. Among those in attendance was the golf coach at the University of New Mexico, who offered Muthiya a scholarship.
 
Muthiya turned pro in 2005 and won $892 in two events on the Canadian Tour this year before his 67-69 at the qualifier in Ohio earned him a spot in one of the most important golf tournaments in the world.
 
Not bad for a guy who never took a lesson until he was in college.
 
'It's something I worked toward achieving, and I guess it's coming to light now,' the 5-foot-8, 162-pound Muthiya said. 'So it's very exciting for me.'
 
Muthiya will have an entire country rooting from him when he tees off Thursday.
 
'We are very pleased with his performance,' Viano Kapoka, president of the Zambia Golf Union, said last week. 'We made a blueprint at ZGU that one day we will produce a world class player and I am happy that we have achieved it. We wish him all the best and we hope he will make the cut at the U.S. Open.'
 
No matter how he fares, Muthiya will never forget the experience.
 
'It's obviously exciting for me to see a lot of people that I grew up watching on TV,' he said. 'It makes me feel I'm going in a positive direction.'
 
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