Marking a milestone as KGU turns 90

Former Kenya Golf Union chairman Ian Campbell (left) with outgoing chairman Richard Wanjalla at Karen Country Club last year. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLO | NMG
Former Kenya Golf Union chairman Ian Campbell (left) with outgoing chairman Richard Wanjalla at Karen Country Club last year. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLO | NMG 

Today, the Kenya Golf Union will hold its Annual General Meeting. But this will be no ordinary AGM. This year marks the 90th anniversary of the union, making the KGU the oldest sports body in Kenya (I stand to be corrected).

To mark this 90th milestone, the union will stage a golf event at the Muthaiga Golf Club and unveil a Commemorative Book that promises to showcase the achievements and highlights of the union through the past 90 years.

According to the outgoing union chairman, Richard Wanjalla, the first copy of the book will be presented to retired President Mwai Kibaki who is also the patron of the union. “The Commemorative Book walks the reader through the journey of the union from the early days, the 60s and 70s when the first African golfers joined the game. The first Kenyan patron of the union was Duncan Ndegwa who assumed that role in 1973.

“We have gentlemen like Ndegwa to thank for preserving many of our current golf courses throughout the country and for growing the game among the local Kenyan population. By documenting various union milestones through the years, I trust and hope we will inspire young and upcoming golfers to understand and appreciate the past, learn from the past and use that to build on the future,” said Wanjalla.

As Wanjalla bows out of the union, what has his committee achieved in the last one year?“The term of the union chairman is an extremely short 12 months, but a lot can be achieved in that time. I set out to grow the number of golfers in Kenya and maintain the stature of the game,” he added.

“Growing the number of golfers has faced many challenges, top among them the fact that golfers have to inevitably be members of exclusive golf clubs. To address this challenge, Wanjalla visited many counties and proposed the establishment of county golf facilities in a programme he named – County Golf Parks.

“We have no choice, to grow public participation in golf, to make this game accessible to the masses, we have to partner with the county governments and assist them to develop and maintain golf facilities open to the public,” he said. Of the 47 counties in Kenya, only a few around Nairobi have golf courses.

The entire North Eastern region for example has no course, neither has Meru, Tharaka-Nithi, Embu, Makueni or Kitui. There are no courses in Homa Bay, Siaya or Turkana either, we have to change this and make the game accessible to all.” Commenting on the notion that golf is an elite sport, a reserve of the rich, Wanjalla said, 90-years on, it was time to change this.

“Many of us in golf today are from humble backgrounds and it is therefore our obligation to reach back, build ladders and ensure every Kenyan has an equal opportunity to play golf. Given a chance the young Kenyans in Kisii and Turkana and Meru will grow to become some the best golfers in the world – at the Union we must provide these opportunities,” he added.

“We have come a long way as a union and we thank those who served before us. To those who pick up the mantle after us, we wish them well and encourage them to keep focused on the task of demystifying the game.”

Limuru’s Lucas Maraga will take over as the KGU chairman and Karen’s Anthony Murage will deputise him. Royal’s Ben Omuodo will assume the role of Secretary General and Sigona’s Peter Kiguru will serve as treasurer.

There are seven candidates for the six union executive committee member positions; they include incumbents Vincent Wangombe - Limuru, George Gathu - KAF, Ndiga Kithae - Thika and Njani Ndiritu - Vet.

The new entrants include Muthaiga’s Philip Ochola, Ruiru’s Fr. Peter Kimani and Kiambu’s Steve Rukwaro. Ndiritu has done exemplary work at the Golf Talent Foundation where he has successfully started a University and Colleagues league that could very well define the future of golf in Kenya. Wangombe has continued to serve the game, teaching golf rules at every opportunity, officiating locally, regionally and internationally.

I will be at the AGM and will vote wisely. To all Muslim brothers and sisters – Ramadhan Kareem.