WANG’OMBE: Golf draws need to be respected

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By VINCENT WANG’OMBE
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As the curtain came down on the Barclays Kenya Open last Sunday, I couldn’t help but admire the way different teams worked in tandem to make it a success.

The administrators, who also doubled up as referees, ladies who handled leader boards and live scoring, marshals and everyone else worked as a well-oiled machine.

The result was a successful 49th Kenya Open. This was also the 25th edition of the tournament as part of the European Challenge Tour.

After being held successfully at Karen Country Club for five years, the Muthaiga Golf Club stepped up to the plate and gave us a great event.

There may be a few things (one or two) that may not have gone according to plan, but the 2017 Open was a resounding success.

The Kenya Open Golf Limited, under the leadership Peter Kanyago, have developed an event that Kenyan golfers look forward to every year.

Kanyago’s team have been working closely with the European Challenge Tour team to develop a world class event. Being the second oldest European Challenge Tour event (second only to the Rolex Trophy which has been held at the Golf Club de Genève for 26 years) and the first event on their calendar, the Kenya Open enjoys a lot of attention.

The same cannot be said of the quality of the game displayed by our local golfers. More than half of our players were among the last 25.

Both the professionals and the amateurs did not play as well as the visiting professionals. The European Challenge Tour last year expressed concern at the fact that very few Kenyans make the cut and proceed to the final two days.

In December of last year, they brought in a teaching professional to take our players through the paces.

The few who attended the sessions confirmed lessons learnt were very useful. The Kenya Golf Union has also sought the services of another teaching professional to ensure the quality of golf played by our amateurs gets better. I hope these lessons will be put to good use for better future results.

DID NOT HONOUR REE-OFF TIMES
In the run up to this year’s Barclays Kenya Open, there were two Pro-Am events organised by the Kenya Open Golf Limited. This is where a professional is paired with an amateur in a four-ball stroke play format. The better score between the pair is recorded.

The problem was many amateurs did not honour their tee-off times and very few bothered to call the organisers to inform them that they would not make it for their slot.

This was reminiscent of what is happening in many local clubs today.

Just like for many motorists in Kenya, where a red traffic light is treated as a suggestion that one may consider stopping, the golf draws are now treated as an indication that one has a slot to play. In many clubs a draw means nothing. If one is drawn for 9.00am and they turn up at 1pm, there is never an issue. No one is ever penalised at our golf clubs anymore for being late or not turning up at all.

Well, maybe just a few clubs still do.

The inconvenience to golfers who keep time and the delays at the starters is not going to cause these poor time keepers any worry.

To them, it is never that serious and they will be stupefied if they are penalised or even disqualified from the competition for being late.

The Rules of Golf are not ambiguous about the time of starting.

The player is supposed to be at the stipulated tee on time. If the draw says 9.15am, the Rules require the player to be there before 9.15am. One second later, and they should be penalised two strokes in stroke play and loss of hole in match play. If the player saunters in five minutes later, then he or she should be disqualified.

This year the Nairobi District Captains have introduced a strict draw for the league matches. This is as it should be. Some players are, however, complaining that this goes against the spirit of the game. They contend that the league matches are supposed to foster camaraderie between the players.

I’m of the opinion that the draws will enhance the game.

The word that encapsulates the spirit of the game of golf is “respect”.

Golfers must respect other players, and one way of doing that is by sticking to the allotted tee times.

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