WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – “Coming to America” is Madalitso Muthiya’s (mah-dah-LEET-so mu-TEE-ah) favorite movie. More than a hundred times, he says, he’s watched the Eddie Murphy comedy in which an African prince goes to Queens, N.Y., in hopes of finding a woman he can marry. The movie title could just as easily double as that of his improbable journey to the final stage of PGA Tour Q-School.
Muthiya, 26, is a native of Zambia, the southern Africa country with an estimated population of 12 million, not to be confused with the fictional homeland of Murphy’s character, Prince Akeem.
“People always make fun of me because Zambia sounds almost like Zamunda,” he said with a laugh and a snuffle. “People joke that I’m a prince or something.”
Muthiya’s dream of playing on the Tour began, strangely enough, shortly after he borrowed a club and ball from his father and broke a window in his parent’s bedroom when he was 6 years old. Rather than punish him, his father decided to teach him to play. Three years later Muthiya got his first set of clubs.
“They were like junior clubs, ladies club, really light. They were pink grips,” he said. “I remember the driver was like a Cougar.”
The dream of playing on Tour was firmly planted when he was 13 years old and watched a VHS tape of a Tour event with Nick Faldo and Greg Norman. Muthiya proclaimed to his family, “I want to do that.”
Playing out of Lusaka Golf Club, one of 17 courses in Zambia, he began winning tournaments regularly and caught the attention of the president of Zambia, who invited Muthiya to the State House. When the president heard his goal – first to play golf at an American university, then the Tour – he offered Muthiya aid in making it a reality.
Through the help of a friend of the president of Zambia, Muthiya was granted a spot in the 1999 AJGA Nolan Henke/Patty Berg Junior Masters in Fort Meyers, Fla. He won the 16-18 year-old age group by six strokes, and just as importantly, got noticed by the University of New Mexico coach.
Muthiya graduated from UNM in 2005. Since turning professional, Muthiya made his biggest splash in 2006 when he became the first African to play in the U.S. Open. With conditional status this season on the Nationwide Tour he made only eight starts. He spent much of the year back in Albuquerque preparing for the three stages of Q-School. As if scripted for a movie, Muthiya advanced on the number to the final stage of Q-School, where he is making his second appearance.
Unlike Muthiya’s favorite film though, his journey to the Tour looks like it will fall short of a Hollywood ending – for now. Muthiya shot 77 in the fifth round to drop to 9 over (T-129), and faces potentially another year of conditional status on the Nationwide Tour unless he can make up ground in the final round.
“It’s a plus that I made it to here but it’s not enough,” he said with a resilient smile.
Muthiya admits that he’s made too many foolish mistakes, and accepts that no matter how much he feels his game has progressed, there is more journey ahead. But he expressed no regret for devoting so much of his life to the game.
“To be here is to be on the threshold of fulfilling my dream of the Tour,” he said. “I guess there’s just more work to be done.”