There is a new sheriff at the home of golf, and all eyes will be on him to deliver a spectacular 84th Nairobi District Foursomes.
As the new and the not-so-new golf captains slowly ease themselves into their roles in the new year, the same cannot be said of the golf captain at Muthaiga Golf Club.
James Ondigo, the current head honcho at Muthaiga, has to step up to the plate “bigly” and deliver a memorable year opener. Having worked with him some years back when he was vice captain at Muthaiga, I know that he is up to the task.
For those that think that this is just another of many tournaments that will played in the course of the year, you are as wrong about it as the break on a downhill six-footer putt.
This is the tournament that announces the top players to watch in the year. The winners at last year’s Nairobi District Foursomes was the pair of Edwin Mudanyi and Robinson Owiti. Mudanyi went on to bestride and dominate the 2017 Kenya Amateur Golf Championship. This has been the same of other players in past years.
In this match play competition that pits a pair of golfers playing shots alternately in every hole, they are always careful not to play when it is not their turn.
In last years Nairobi District Foursomes I noticed that a number of golfers were not very sure who was allowed to mark the position of the ball on the green.
I silently watched as one caddie laboriously explained that the player who was meant to putt would be the one to mark the position of the ball on the green. In one instance, a golfer who had chipped the ball onto the green had to wait for a while for his partner to arrive and mark the ball.
In another, a player missed a five-foot putt to win the hole and the ball rolled more than a foot beyond the hole.
He looked to his opponents hoping for a concession for the half, but they were not feeling sufficiently philanthropic. When the player looked like he was about to mark the ball, his partner, who was already off the green and preparing to tee off at the next hole, warned him not to as it was his turn to play the next shot.
The way he did it seemed to imply that he assumed that if his partner marked the position of the ball, they would lose the hole.
This is, however, a misconception. The position of the ball on the green can be marked by the player, his partner or anybody permitted by the player.
In this case, the partner who had missed the putt was allowed to mark the position of the ball. This authority does not extend to the caddie.
The player’s caddie must get permission to lift the ball from the green each time they need to do so. If the caddie marks the position of the ball without direct authorisation, he must not lift it otherwise the player incurs a one-stroke penalty. The other misconception around the greens is the belief that one is not allowed to repair any pitch marks outside the green if their ball is not on the green.
This usually happens on the apron when a shot is just short of the green. I saw as the same pair of players were in a discussion about repairing a pitch mark that was off the green.
Golfers must not improve or allow to be improved: the position or lie of their ball, the area of intended stance or swing or their line of play. In match play, as is the case in the Nairobi District Foursomes, the pair that falls foul of this Rule lose the hole.
However, the pitch mark in discussion was one that was not near any of the above circumstances. In such a case, the pitch mark should be repaired to improve on the condition of the course for those that follow.
The burden of greatness for the best golfers is that they are expected to win the best competitions. If they don’t, their skill may be called to question and their place in history is not assured.
In Kenyan amateur golf, the Nairobi District Foursomes is one of the tournaments that is difficult to win since one has to have an able wingman.
For those that have been crowned top golfers in Kenya without etching their names on this prestigious trophy, there is a gap in their record.
Now that Mudanyi no longer has the burden of that gap, he should work towards being the amateur champion at this year’s Barclays Kenya Open on home soil in March.
That will make his record as an amateur golfer complete.