As you read this, the Kitante Open at the Uganda Golf Club, which is the penultimate leg of the Safari Tour, will be well into the final stages.
The professional golfers, some who have travelled thousands of kilometres to get to Kampala, will not only be playing hard for some of the prize money, but also for a chance to play in the Magical Kenya Open.
The Uganda Golf Union is hosting the fourth Safari Tour event in the 2019-2020 calendar and they have done a splendid job of running the events across the pond.
The one thing that the Uganda Golf Union has in common with the Kenya Open Golf Limited, owners of the Safari Tour, is the focus on junior golfers.
Without grooming the future professional golfers, the current leadership will have failed the two East African countries.
This is the reason why the professional golfers who participate in the Safari Tour are required to hold a junior clinic to grow the interest of the game among the youth.
A day before the start of the Kitante Open, there was a junior clinic that was led by the club professional Deo Akope. This is in keeping with the aim of the Safari Tour to help groom golfers from an early age who will be able to pursue golf as a career.
In countries like the USA and South Africa where the game of golf is thriving, there are plenty of academies where talented youngsters are taught the mechanics of the game.
Hopefully, we shall be able to see these in Kenya and Uganda. By the way, is the Lenana School Golf Academy initiative, which was being championed by the Kenyan government still on track? It would be nice to see this initiative come to fruition.
The saddest news I heard this week was of a club from the Kenyan coast that has decided that junior golfers will no longer participate in their competitions.
The Golf captain, in his defence, quoted the deliberations of the club’s AGM to rationalise the move. According to the captain, members decided to lock out the junior golfers and he is going to sit back and watch.
He is happy while being referred to as “Captain”, enjoying courtesies in all golf clubs in the country, have a dedicated parking spot and wear the blazer but he will not lift a finger to protect the young ones.
The club is breaking a long-standing tradition of the region, which has been known to produce some of the best junior golfers. It will be a sad day for Kenyan golf when captains decide to uphold such decisions, which are otherwise, detrimental to the game.
The only time when junior golfers should not be allowed to participate in club competitions is when the sponsor of the tournament is one who promotes products that are unsuitable for youngsters such as alcoholic beverages.
Any other competition should be open to junior golfers and it must be in the club’s interest to promote junior golfers.
The other misconception has been that the youngsters should not win the overall prize. My question to those who think that way has always been; if the child played from the men’s (for boys) or the ladies (for girls) tees, and they are properly handicapped, why shouldn’t they win the overall prize?
In fact, junior golfers should have their prizes kept for them if they go home early to watch cartoon network, instead of waiting for presentation in clubs that have a “No-show-no-prize” policy.
As I was growing up, a child was to be seen and not to be heard. The coastal club that decided not to allow junior golfers to participate in their competitions is going to hurt the juniors more.
Just like with the Safari Tour, let us encourage our children to grow the game of golf.
Wang’ombe is the General Manager of Kenya Open Golf Limited