Last weekend but one, I got a call from Robert Kunga inviting me for the Airtel Golf Challenge which would be taking place on Saturday 25th June. I naturally checked my events calendar and confirmed I’d be there to take pictures and cover the event. He quickly rubbished my assumption and clarified that he wanted me there to play… not watch others play.
My excuses started flowing, “You see, the way my golf swing is set up…” but he could hear none of that. Instead of calling me out, which he would have done; he proceeded to break it down for me why I needed to play.
Airtel Golf Challenge was started by members of the fourth estate who were fascinated and wanted to learn to play the good game. A handful of those have managed to improve and progress well that they now have handicaps; two of whom dropped their handicap further after this event. The event is hosted at the only public Golf Course in Kenya, Golf Park at Ngong Racecourse and later, Airtel came in as a sponsor and has provided invaluable support and take home value that goes a frigging long way in motivating the newbies. According to Robert, I needed to play as this would be the stress free environment where I could ‘piga mingi’ and no one would bat an eyelid… possibly because we would both be in the rough looking for our balls. I was sold and confirmed my participation.
At this point, I should let you know that I am competitive… like seriously competitive. I don’t participate in anything I can’t come close to winning… except hit on women who are out of my league… that’s a weakness. I am a newbie and this would be my first time playing but that didn’t mean I had a reason to suck. I hit the range at VetLab daily and if you check on google earth, there’s a divot on the first tee box that I unfortunately dug up with my driver. Sh*t happens. I also dropped by to see Kenya Long Drive coach, Anokh Jai so that one drive on the 12th that went straight and long is his doing. He also has some Mizuno MP5s that I could hit straight, consistently even though I am Capt. Popote Wireless with my MX23s.
D Day came along and the fun started… I didn’t want to hit the range; I had strained my back with bad posture during the week and had a blister on my right hand because of the number of divots I dug up. We all got 4 balls (of which I lost 2 by the 2nd hole and the other 2 on the 8th) and four tees. I hit the putting green which I think is a great contrast to the conditions on the course as it was too slow but out on the greens in regulation they were hella fast! Reality sank in when it was my turn to tee up on the 1st and hit OB right. I’d take you through my piga mingi round but you don’t have the time. I’ll however highlight my 2 favourite moments besides meeting Team Kenya’s Elias Indeche on the course;
- I hit a PW from 100 yards out on the 9th straight into the cup. Unbelievable, right? Yes! I called it a hole in one because for a beginner, I should be afforded cheap thrills. Okay? Thanks. I saw it hit the green, near the pin and was happy that I wouldn’t have to 5 putt to the cup, picked up the putter and walked to the green only to be greeted by the fantastic reality that my ball had found the bottom of the cup. I was ecstatic to say the least!
- I hit one long and straight drive on the 12th… that baby went faaaaaar!! None of the other non-competitors on the course could touch me as I hit almost 5 irons to the green, yeah, my short game sucks.
I handed in my card after the first nine and went out on the back nine just for fun. I shot a 68 on the first nine which came down to 54 after count back. That landed me on first runners up in the inexperienced group which was led by R Kiragu who carded 48 on countback. The experienced team (guys with handicaps) was led by Eric Kwambai who scored 76 on the full 18 followed by Tim Timase with 79 and Fredrick Kirui with 80. Kwambai and Timase got to lower their handicaps to 22 and 20 respectively.
Now, my 2 cents which I think will echo most guys sentiments; The Airtel Golf Challenge is one event that will bring more new guys into the game than some people’s manifestos…hashtag savage. It’d be great if other members clubs would open up their courses and have the journos play their greens and fairways. It’ll make for a great experience for the newbies, get more members of the fourth estate picking up the game and I don’t really need to explain how beneficial that will be to the status of the gentleman’s game in general. Give it a thought.
Thank you Robert Kunga for the invite and my team mates, Ronnie & Jesse for tolerating me. You made my first time playing the game quite memorable.
Here are some shots from the Airtel Golf Challenge: