A total of 150 contestants will be at the scenic 6307-yard, par-71 Keswick Hall at Monticello in search of the $16,000 top prize when opening round action gets underway Thursday.
The Tours eighth official event of the season is named in honour of Lewis Chitengwa, the 26-year-old rookie who joined the Canadian Tour at the 2001 Winter Qualifying School. Chitengwa had a pair of top-ten showings (T3 at the South Carolina Challenge and T7 at the Shell Payless Open) before tragedy struck on June 30 in Edmonton. Just hours after firing a second-round 67 to climb to within five shots of the lead at the TELUS Edmonton Open, Chitengwa fell ill and pulled out of the event, two hours before his scheduled third-round tee time. Eight hours later, Lewis Chitengwa passed away at the University of Alberta Hospital from meningococcemia, a strain of meningitis.
Chitengwa, who once defeated Tiger Woods as an amateur, and PGA Tour star Hal Sutton share the Keswick course record with an 8-under 63.
All proceeds from the event this week will go to the Lewis Chitengwa Foundation, set up by Mike Moraghan, Lewis former coach at the University of Virginia. Also on hand at Keswick Hall at Monticello are Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Chitengwa, Lewis parents, and younger brother, Farai. Both Lewis, Sr. and Farai will be in the starting field this week on sponsors exemptions.
The Chitengwa family, who flew 38 hours from Zimbabwe and are visiting the United States for the first time, has been overwhelmed with the response shown this week.
I am speechless, we never thought it would be like this, said an emotional Lewis, Sr. The people Ive met- the players, the Tour staff, friends from the University of Virginia, people from church- have been tremendous. It shows us how well Lewis sold himself to everyone he met.
All around Keswick Hall this week are buttons emblazoned with Chitengwas picture, which players, Tour staff and tournament officials will wear through Sunday. Also visible are golf shirts with LC 67. Chitengwas first-ever round playing for the University of Virginia resulted in a 67, the same score he carded in his final round on that Friday in Edmonton.
We never dreamt we would see this, but Lewis seems to be everywhere this week, added Lewis, Sr. It seems like he is just around the corner. This is very special for us.
Second-year Tour player Brennan Webb holds a special spot in his heart for Chitengwa. The two were introduced through a mutual friend in their college days, and the friendship grew when Chitengwa joined the Canadian Tour. Shortly after pulling out of the Edmonton event last June, Chitengwa called Webb. The 27-year-old Webb, after seeing Chitengwas condition worsening, called an ambulance and followed Chitwengwa to the hospital.
Whoever hoists that trophy Sunday will probably feel that they have accomplished something special in a very important tournament, said Webb. I havent played well this year, but I know if I could do something here, it would be for other reasons.
I know Lewis, Sr. always wanted to come to the U.S. to see Lewis play-in junior golf, in college or as a pro. Its a little sad that he finally got to make the trip, and Lewis isnt here.