Taking life one tee at a time

Resident Vincent Kabaso shares his incredible story following his dream of becoming a PGA professional that brought him from his home in Zambia to New Jersey.

Vincent Kabaso practices his swing on the green of the Laurel Creek Country Club.

Vincent Kabaso has hit many roadblocks in his life, yet he’s never lost sight of his goal. His incredible pursuit of a professional golf career resulted in a move to Mount Laurel, where he is gainfully employed as a PGA first assistant at the Laurel Creek Country Club.

Kabaso grew up in Luanshya, a small town in Zambia, Africa. He first discovered golf through his father, who worked for a copper mine that owned a golf course.

When his father was given a set of clubs, Kabaso was the only one of his six siblings to express a real interest in the sport. Golf doesn’t have much of a presence in Zambia, where, like Africa as a whole, soccer is the dominant sport.

Kabaso was his father’s caddy during trips to the Roan Antelope club, where he fell in love with the sport that would alter his life.

“I asked him to play one time and he let me,” Kabaso recalled of his father. “It was everything I wanted to do.”

Suddenly, all the childish games he played with his friends paled in comparison to swinging a golf club in a professional setting.

“It was incomparable,” Kabaso said. “I didn’t want to go back to anything else; all I wanted to do was to play golf.”

He began practicing with his father every day after school. Without a car of their own, they relied on friends for rides and occasionally had to take long nighttime walks through the bushes.

Despite his lack of formal training, Kabaso’s discipline and regular practice started to pay off when he won a club championship at age 15 and represented his country on the national team at 16.

The logical thing, Kabaso thought, was to secure a scholarship to play golf while attending school and eventually go pro. But making his next steps a reality would prove difficult at best.

“The system didn’t really favor me because I didn’t have the background,” he explained.
“I didn’t have the name and I didn’t have the connections.”

Unsure of how to proceed, but still determined to make his dream come true, Kabaso began writing letters addressed by name only to reporters on BBC sports segments, hoping they would somehow find their way into the right hands. 

After a few years with no luck, he finally received a response after writing the British PGA, which recommended he write the R&A (Royal and Ancient Golf Club) Foundation to request an educational grant. He received the grant and was eventually accepted to Bridgwater & Taunton College in England.

That breakthrough was cut short when he found himself needing funds not covered by the R&A grant. His family’s resources were stretched thin at the time with Kabaso’s brothers already in college. After a desperate search for funds that took him all the way to the capital, Lusaka, to meet the minister of sports, Kabaso was running out of options.

But with a little help from his family — including his mother’s savings account — Kabaso was able to make the trip to England despite owing part of his tuition and having only enough money to cover a few months of school.

His college career was a series of starts and stops. Despite working a job while attending school, he kept running into financial roadblocks. Kabaso couldn’t afford another semester at Bridgwater and ended up transferring to Elmwood College in Scotland, after Jonathan MacDonald, the head of golf at Bridgwater and a mentor to Kabaso, wrote him a check to get started at the new school.

Kabaso ended up having to return to Zambia after his first year at Elmwood because he couldn’t afford a second. 

“Every single time I felt like I moved a step up, life kept on dealing me another blow,” he recalled.

Back home, Kabaso struggled — until an opportunity arose. He was able to use the golf experience and education he had already gained to secure a job at Zambia’s Nchanga Golf Club, where he became the general manager. But the job was hardly his dream. 

After searching online for PGA golf schools in America, Kabaso was accepted at Methodist University in North Carolina. He sold everything he had accumulated working at Nchanga —  his car, furniture, clothes — to make the trip to the states.

In America, he applied to every job he could find on the PGA website and eventually got a call from New Haven Country Club in Connecticut, where he was not only given a job as an assistant professional, but received assistance for his certification as a PGA professional.

He met his future wife Hannah shortly after arriving in the states. It was Hannah, who works for the Air Force and was stationed in New Jersey, who brought him first to Marlton then Mt. Laurel.

“It’s been quite a journey,” Kabaso acknowledged. “I laugh now because I don’t know much that I haven’t experienced. At this stage, I take it easy.”