WANG’OMBE: Honesty is an acquired character

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By VINCENT WANG’OMBE
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This past week social media was abuzz with news about Tiger Woods’ brief residence at a police station in Florida, USA. Apparently, a police man found him in a state that is not suited for being behind the wheel.

He was slurring his words and couldn’t walk straight. According to a statement he issued after he was released, the state that he was in was a reaction to medication that he was taking.

After an illustrious career on the golfing scene that started from when he was barely out of the cradle, are his best days behind him? Will he ever spring back to winning ways?

God did not see fit to give me the gift of clairvoyance and I therefore cannot tell if we will see Tiger winning again. My hunch, however, is that this may very well be the end. There is however one lesson from Tiger’s life that should not be lost on us; part of the reason he became a champion was because he started young.

I had the pleasure of playing with two young champions this past weekend. They have been winning in local tournaments but I know it will not be long before they start making ripples on the world scene. The two young ladies, Jaimee and Kellie Gachaga are not only good at striking the golf ball, they are the epitome of the perfect daughters.

They are not only courteous and well-behaved, they genuinely enjoy playing golf and being in each other’s company.

At 12 years, Jaimee has started winning handicapped prizes while her older sister Kellie has been crowned the Ladies Champion. Kellie has represented the country in a few tournaments and her best years are yet to come.

On the day that I played with these two juniors, there were hardly any others on the golf course. This is repeated on almost all the golf courses in the country. The Kenyan average age is about 19 years, however in the golf clubs it must be way above 40.

We have too few youngsters playing golf and if this is not changed, we may as well stop dreaming of Kenyans winning on the global scene.

There are many good qualities that are to be gained from playing the game of golf from an early age. Honesty is the most obvious one. Ernie Els, the four-time major champion, displayed this quality when he played at the BMW PGA Championship last week.

His second shot at the par-5 12th hole ended in a spot where he thought it was embedded. The Rules of Golf allow for relief for a ball that is embedded in its own pitch mark in a closely mown area. The Committee may, however, put a Local Rule that allows relief anywhere on the course.

The first thing a golfer must do before picking their ball, is to inform their playing partners that they intend to pick the ball because they believe that it is embedded.

Contrary to popular belief among many Kenyan golfers, the golfer is not seeking permission but must inform them all the same to give them an opportunity to observe if they so wish.

In the case of Ernie Els at Wentworth last week, after duly informing his playing partners, marking the position of the ball, he found that it was not embedded. He placed the ball back where it was.

He then chipped in for what many observers thought was a very brilliant 3; an eagle on the par-5 12th hole.

As a veteran on the golf course, the one thing that troubled him was whether he had put the ball back where it was originally before he picked it.

He had a nagging feeling that he had probably gained an advantage from not putting it back in the position that it was lying before he picked it up.

Ernie did what good golfers do; he adjudged himself a two-stroke penalty for playing the ball from the wrong place.

No one would have faulted him for the eagle but as a seasoned golfer, the spirit of the game of golf required him to penalise himself.

Aren’t these the qualities that we would like our children to have? They will get these and more playing golf.

In the case of Tiger; I may not be his caddy but he would probably have been better off if he used a driver.

All the same, since he is a golfer, he was courteous to the police men and cooperated fully until his eventual release. Honesty, courtesy and respect are second-nature to all good golfers.

More so when they start young.

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