Amateurs may teach golf but not earn from it

Friday November 24 2017

University of Nairobi's up and coming golfer Eric Genga. PHOTO | COURTESY |

University of Nairobi's up and coming golfer Eric Genga. PHOTO | COURTESY |  

By VINCENT WANG'OMBE
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I joined University of Nairobi back when we used to get money directly from the KCB cashiers, unlike the “Chania’s Eleven” who did it through a tunnel.

We would walk up to the cashiers with our ‘magic cards’ (student ID card) and walk out with Sh5 million in cash; well, okay, it was Sh5,380 but it sure felt like Sh5 million.

The allowance, also known as “boom”, filled us with majestic arrogance.

Professor Francis Gichaga, when welcoming us as freshmen, told us that our years at the university would be the most memorable in our lives. That, they were.

Among the gems of wisdom he shared with us that day, was that we should never visit hall 14 alone. At that point I did not know that University of Nairobi’s numbered halls of residence went up to 13.

Hall 14 was the name given to a pub on Muindi Mbingu Street called Afro Unity. Hall 14 was always open, day and night, and a number of students would spend a good part of their ‘boom’ there.

There was one thing the good professor encouraged us to do; it was to participate in sports. When the “boom” ran out, we would spend a lot of our free time watching or participating in different sports.

In those days, there were some great sportsmen and women at the University. Mean Machine with players like Sammy Khakame and Paul Murunga were no pushovers in the Kenyan rugby scene.

Neither were the Terrorists with the late Michael Muhoro and Gringo, whose grace on the basketball courts was always a pleasure to watch.

The one sport that was virtually unknown by University of Nairobi students in those days was golf.

We did not have any golfing activities despite several colleges being close to golf clubs. Indeed, Vet Lab Sports Club is within Kabete Ng’ombe Campus (College of Agriculture and Veterinary Sciences) land.

This is where I was last week at the Inter-University Tournament and met a few university students who were there competing for their respective universities.

Eric Genga led his team from University of Nairobi to a well deserved victory. He managed to play an impressive 42 stableford points off 25 handicap.

Genga is one of the few university students who have taken up the sport and are putting in the practice time to ensure that they improve their golfing skills. The one thing that I kept wondering when talking to these students was whether they have a coach.

Some, I found out, are self-taught while a few have had some formal lessons.

This then made me think about the scarcity of qualified golf trainers across the country. It is a fact that many people, unlike Julius Yego, don’t rely on YouTube to learn golf. They learn from their peers or caddies.

Who then is allowed to teach the game of golf? Is there a Rule that stipulates who can or can’t?

Unlike other sports, the game of golf has Rules of Amateur Status. In these rules, there is a clear distinction between the amateur and professional golfer.

They also stipulate what each can or can’t do. Unlike what many golfers have been made to believe, there is nothing wrong with an amateur golfer giving golf instructions.

In fact, there are some good instructors from the amateur ranks such as Alfred Gachaga who has been coaching his daughters Kellie and Jaimee.

The only prohibition is for them getting paid for it.

There are only three instances when an amateur golfer may receive compensation for giving golf instructions.

If the golfer is an employee of an educational institution, such as a university, and part of their duty is training golfers, then that would be kosher.

Ditto for camps or similar organised programmes. In these two instances, the amateur golfers training duties must not take more than 50 per cent their time.

The only other time that an amateur golfer may receive payment for giving golf instructions is when involved in a programme that is approved by the Kenya Golf Union.

If an amateur golfer gets paid for teaching golf under any other circumstances, then the Kenya Golf Union would not be remiss if they stripped them of their amateur status.

I would however hope to see more university students playing golf and competing at the highest level.

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Thirty-four years ago, Leah Mburu put her indelible mark on the Kenyan golfing scene as the first African Lady winner of the Kenya Ladies Championships.

Three years before winning the Championship, she had been chosen to be the first African Lady Captain at Sigona Golf Club.

She was called upon to be Lady Captain five more times in years that followed. Mburu passed away last week. She will forever remain the first-born of African Lady golfers. May her soul rest in eternal peace.