Back in 1984, when Marlboro were the official sponsors for the Safari Rally, 555 were the sponsors for the Kenya Open.
This was the year when I first watched the Kenya Open.
I attended the final day and it was filled with excitement and exhilaration. I witnessed my first ever play-off to determine the winner of the Kenya Open.
In those days, the play-off was referred to as “sudden death”. The winner of the 555 Kenya Open in 1984 was José-Maria Cañizares.
I had watched him play that day and even though I was not interested in golf then, I enjoyed watching the great Cañizares that afternoon and was very excited when he beat the other golfer (I don’t remember his name but if I am not mistaken, he was English) in the sudden death.
In those days, the Kenya Open used to attract some of the top golfers in the world. Cañizares was among the top 10 golfers in the world when he played here. The Competition Committee for the Kenya Open had to ensure that they did not make any blunders.
They had not assumed that there would be an outright winner and had prepared for the sudden death in the event of a tie at the top. They were not going to settle for a tie at the top.
It was therefore very surprising to hear of a major mix-up during the Tanzanian Open that was played at the Kilimanjaro Golf and Wildlife Estate last week.
In all the years that I have been involved in sports, I have never heard of a case where the players were consulted on the conditions of play.
The Competition Committee of the Tanzania Open were not ready for a tie in the amateur ranks and they resorted to consulting the two top players, Edwin Mudanyi from Kenya and Victor Joseph from Tanzania on what to do.
The players agreed to have a play-off. There was another problem though, they were running out of day light. Mudanyi and Joseph were tied even after the two play-off holes.
All phones, torches and fireflies in the area had to be summoned to light up the green to help the poor golfers see in the dark as they putted at the last hole. After further consultations, the Competition Committee decided to settle for a tie. During presentation however, they announced Mudanyi as the winner of the amateur title. Joseph was obviously not happy.
There is no problem in having a tie. A tie is a perfectly acceptable result of a competition. This was not what the Competition Committee desired, otherwise they would not have wasted time with the play-off.
They clearly wanted a sole winner. If this is the case, the Competition Committee should have decided in advance how they wanted to deal with ties and this information should have been made available for all players to see beforehand.
Back in Kenya, there was a similar case recently where a Competition Committee decided to steal candy from a baby. Well, almost literally.
During a handicap competition, a club had prizes for the men winner, lady winner, junior winner and an overall winner.
The competition, just like 99 per cent of our competitions, was a Stableford event. The men winner had 37 points, the lady winner had 38 points, the junior winner had 41 points and the overall winner, a man, had 38 points and had beat the lady winner on count back.
When I was told about this, my first question was whether the junior golfer had a valid Congu handicap. The answer was in the affirmative. The second question was whether the junior golfer had played from the proper tees.
Apparently the junior winner was a girl and she had played from the same tee boxes as the other ladies, so yes. The next question was whether the competition was open for juniors golfer or if there was a condition of play that stated that the junior players were not eligible for the overall prize.
I had gone too far… there was no answer for this question. No one had seen the conditions of play.
Unfortunately, this scene is repeated in many clubs in Kenya today. We are having competitions that do not have documented conditions of play. These are probably in peoples heads but even then, they are sometimes altered to favour certain individuals.
Information on conditions of competitions complete with sample wording is available in the Rules of Golf.
Many committees that run golf affairs in our country have chosen to boycott and resist the laid out procedure and have chosen to fly by the seat of their pants.
It is important for conditions of play to be well documented before a competition.