The year that saw Tiger Woods gain ground

Tiger Woods of the US hits from the sand to the green at the 2nd hole during the fourth round of the 112th US Open at San Francisco's Olympic Club on June 17, 2012 in California. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN
Tiger Woods of the US hits from the sand to the green at the 2nd hole during the fourth round of the 112th US Open at San Francisco's Olympic Club on June 17, 2012 in California. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN 

What a golfing year 2012 has been! Rory McIlroy cemented his position as the world’s top golf professional, winning the money titles on both the US-PGA and European TOURs.

His list of awards for 2012 included PGA Player of the Year, European Tour Golfer of the year, Vardon Trophy (awarded to the winner in scoring average) and Byron Nelson Award (lowest adjusted scoring average for the year).

Rory won four times on the PGA Tour this year, including his second major title, the PGA Championship. This year also saw the return of Tiger Woods to what may be referred to as a “normal” season for him.

Woods participated in 19 events, won three times, taking his career wins to 74, missed the cut on two occasions and collected more than $6 million in prize money. Unfortunately, Woods did not win any Majors and he is now placed third on the Official World Golf Rankings behind McIlroy and Luke Donald.

South Africa’s golf magazine, Compleat Golfer, mentions Ernie Els’ victory at the Open Championship as one of the defining moments of 2012; I couldn’t agree more. While it was great seeing Els lift the Claret Jug, again, it was heart-breaking to watch Adam Scott, a true golfing gentleman, collapse and hand Els victory.

The magazine also recognises Branden Grace’s victory at the Volvo Golf Champions at Fancourt in George, SA. Grace had a brilliant season in 2012, winning the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, the Volvo China Open and the Jo’burg Open. Grace was T3 in the 2011 Kenya Open and T48 at the 2010 Kenya Open. Grace is now ranked 34 on the Official World Golf Rankings.

This year also saw one of the most prestigious golf clubs, Augusta National Golf Club, admit women members. In its 80-year history, Augusta had never invited a woman to be a member. Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and financier Darla Moore would be the first women members of the club. However, hopes that the R&A would follow suit and admit women seemed near impossible.

The R&A was founded in 1754 and it has a membership of about 2,400 males. To become an R&A member, one needs a proposer, a seconder and 20 other members as supporters; a tall order.

Closer home, David Opati ended the Kenya Golf Union Golfer of the Year series with a clear victory at the Nyali Open. Opati, a scratch golfer and member of Kenya’s elite squad, participated in all 18 events on the KGU-Goty calendar, winning the Coast Open, the Manchester Salver in Eldoret and the Nyali Open to finish with 114 points. Nelson Simwa finished in second place with 78 points having triumphed at the Windsor Classic, the inaugural Kabete Open and the Nyanza Open.

Mathew Omondi finished in third place with 61 points; his victories came at the Sigona Bowl and the Coronation Trophy in Nakuru. Other champions on the Goty series included Frank Matilo (Mt. Kenya Championship, Nyeri Club), John Ndichu (Muthaiga Open), Joseph W Karanja (Limuru Open), John Wangai (Winston Churchill, Thika Sports Club), Anthony Kinuthia (Trans Nzoia Championship, Kitale Club), Nadeem Alibhai (Karen Challenge), William Odera (Tea Fields, Kericho Club) and Justus Madoya (Uhuru Shield, Royal Nairobi Golf Club). The two top amateur golf events in Kenya, the Kenya Amateur Open and the Kenya Amateur Match-Play were won by Justus Madoya and Tony Omuli respectively.

Not featuring on this roll of honour were Kenya elite junior golfers, who, due to school commitments, could not travel around the country for the KGU-Goty series. However, the juniors, especially the squad from the Nyali, made their presence felt when they were included in the national team to the East Africa Golf Challenge in Bujumbura.

At the more prestigious Africa Amateur Championship 2012, the Kenyan elite squad failed to impress, finishing third behind South Africa and Namibia. This was SA’s 12th victory at a Championship they have dominated since 2000. Kenya won the championship in 2010 and failed to defend the title at home in 2011.

At the 2012 Tannahill Shield, Muthaiga Golf Club triumphed for the fourth year in a row. Muthaiga relied on the services of the Sigona and Western teams to stem the charge of the Limuru Warriors led by Yassin Awale.

What made news at the Tannahill Shield, however, was the early exit of Vet Lab Sports Club who were protesting against a rule against fielding honorary members. The unfortunate exit of Vet Lab meant no team was relegated and hosts Royal now have the task to either invite Vet Lab back in 2013 or replace them.

Oh wait, I almost forgot. The Kenya Open was successfully hosted at the Muthaiga Golf Club in April and Seve Benson from England was the winner on a score of 10-under par. Benson made a late charge for the championship, beating Denmark’s Lasse Jensen in a play-off.

Twenty-three Kenyan professionals took part in the event, six made the cut.