Globetrotter Mark McNulty pulled
off one of the biggest wins of his career yesterday when he became
an Irish citizen at the age of 50.
The Zimbabwe-born legend, who
has won 51 times around the world in a 27 year career, has been
forced to turn his back on his homeland because of the political
Under dictator Robert Mugabe,
it can take up to two years to get a passport renewed and McNulty
cannot afford to take that chance as he prepares to play alongside
fellow Irishmen Des Smyth and Eamonn Darcy on the US Champions
Tour next season.
He said: "As a Zimbabwean,
if you live outside the country it is very difficult to get your
passport renewed. If I have my passport stolen or lost it can
take me a year and a half to two years to get a new one.
"It's a big decision.
But I'm looking at it from a roots aspect and also from a practical
day to day travelling thing. Over 27 years I've been asked about
my name and whether I have Irish blood, at least a couple of
times a year.
"My mother had to renounce
her Zimbabwe citizenship because she wasn't allowed to hold both
a British and a Zimbabwean passport and it is the same for me."
Worried that his career could
come to an end of he had his passport stolen, McNulty has taken
out Irish citizenship as his maternal grandmother was born in
"The whole process started
three or four years ago when my cousin's daughter came over to
Ballymena. My grandmother's records were destroyed in a fire
so we tried to get a christening record but couldn't find it.
"Eventually the ruling
came on her death certificate which listed her place of birth
as Ballymena, Ireland. She was born in 1885 and her name was
Elizabeth Boyle Hanna."
McNulty was presented with
his certificate of nationality by the Minister for Foreign Affairs,
Brian Cowan at Iveagh House in Dublin and will be able to take
out his passport immediately.
However, the African golfer
confessed that it was "sad and painful" for him to
give up his Zimbabwean passport after years of travelling the
globe alongside the likes of Nick Price and Tony Johnstone.
The 23 year dictatorship of
Robert Mugabe has made life almost impossible for Zimbabwe's
The last straw for McNulty
came just 12 months ago when his parents and other family members
were forced to abandon their 2,000 acre farm by government order.
Thousands of white farmers
have been forced to return their lands to the black majority
but with the economy in tatters because of economic sanctions,
inflation is running at over 500 percent.
He explained: "Enough
is enough. My parents have been kicked off the farm and seven
families are involved between brothers and aunties and cousins.
My parents are living in Harare now and my sister and brother
are moving to Australia.
"The whole situation is
sad. But you have to look at the whole picture. The black man
in the street is suffering really badly. The biggest issue is
the people on pensions. Two years ago there were worth something
now their pensions are worth tuppence.
"I was in Zimbabwe a moth
ago and took the family out to dinner one night. Two years ago
the same meal cost 9,000 Zimbabwe dollars. A month ago that same
meal cost 255,000."
McNulty will continue to live
in the stockbroker belt of Sunningdale, where Paul McGinley and
Darren Clarke are neighbours.
And he confirmed yesterday
that he will be notifying the PGA Champions Tour that he is now
an Irish player.
He added: "I'm sure they
will still claim me in Zimbabwe, but Ireland will claim me too
and I will be letting them know in the US that I am now an Irish
"The most important thing
is to be registered and I've done that now and I can get my passport.
"I've lived in Sunningdale
for many many a year. I have family who are also going to be
able to get Irish citizenship on the back of this.
"The situation is very
sad and hopefully it will change in a few years if there is a
change of government there, but this is the only way I can continue
to do what I do and play around the world.
"My family were all kicked
out and had to move off the property. My parents and brother
and sister and my wife's family as well. We had a 2,000 acre
property and around 240 labourers producing good maize for the
country which was dependent on agriculture.
"Out of around 4,500 farms
there are less than 1000 white farmers left. My brother is now
working in Harare. My sister and her husband are moving to Australia
in January and that basically says it all."
A long time pal of Drogheda's
Des Smyth, McNulty admitted that his Irish friend played a vital
role in encouraging him to go for his Champions Tour card recently.
In the end, McNulty matched
Smyth's feat of last year and won the final qualifying School.
He said: "Des was very
instrumental in kicking me up the backside to go and get my card
on the US Seniors tour.
"I couldn't believe how
difficult it was over there but I was playing well so it was
actually easy in the end."
McNulty is no stranger to hardship.
His natural father was killed
in a shooting accident when he was one year old and in 1980 he
escaped with facial injuries when his car collided with a bus
near his parents' farm.
He said: "Yes, I had a
bad accident in 1980 on the farm and you really take a step back
and ask yourself what's life all about. I had serious facial
and neck injuries and I suffer with my neck from time to time."
While his playing career is
coming to an end, McNulty has decided to cash in on the Champions
Tour in the US.
He joked: "I think I'm
past the age. for representing Ireland in the World Cup or something
like that. But I won't be taking up my Zimbabwean passport again
I don't think.
"I have to be realistic.
You are only a young 50 year old once and you have got to take
advantage of it. There is a window of opportunity there for me
in the States and I am looking forward to it."
Minister Cowan said: "It's
a great pleasure to present you with this Certificate of Registration
and we are very grateful that you are recognising your Irish
McNulty thrilled Irish fans
earlier this year when he finished joint second in the Smurfit
European Open at the K Club.
He does not know if he will
play here next year and raise a trophy on Irish soil.
"I'll have to look at
the schedule but I'll certainly raise a Guinness tonight."
© Brian Keogh 2003