In Eastlands, we played baano, not golf

Last weekend, I attended the Barclays Bank Kenya Open golf tournament at Muthaiga Golf Club. I must admit that I don’t really understand or enjoy golf since growing up in the Eastlands provided zero chance to understand the game. The games we played included marbles (baano), kalongolongo, football and later basketball.

So, my going to Muthaiga was strategic for networking purposes. Most of my agemates who got introduced to the game got to understand it much later, after joining golf clubs. I once asked my old guy why he didn’t spare time for teeing off and he responded that when they were young, golf was associated with colonialism since it is the wazungu who played, while the locals were caddies.

The person who made me understand golf was my childhood friend Patrick Mweu Musimba, the current MP for Kibwezi West. Those who grew up in Buru simply call him Mr Kiyoung. He invited me to Muthaiga for a golf function about seven years ago

— where he took time to educate me on the sport. His dream, he told me, was to take the sport to the people down in mtaa. Of course most of the golf fraternity would not want such a thing to happen.

Most people think golf is an exclusive game

— a preserve of the elite. This is because most of the courses are found in exclusive clubs. Imagine a boys wa mtaa telling a corporate CEO to gota, and calling him mtu nguyas.

Musimba maintains that this is a story of a country that has been unable to deal with its great talents and accept merging economic frames shift mindsets. Which is true. Lest we forget, the current billionaires in Kenya came from shagz and Eastlands, but they keep fighting the next generation, and make it difficult for them to cross over to the other side of Uhuru Highway. These people forget that sports superstars like Messi, Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, Wanyama and Olunga, were not accidents of birth, but creatures of nurture.

The difference in talent in Kenya and abroad is purely geographical. A friend has suggested that more golf courses should be opened to the public, or that there should be open public golf courses if private clubs fear interacting with the common mwananchi.

I trust that there are local boys out there who can be natural on the course if they were nurtured. The more it stays exclusive, the worse we will remain. Kenya should follow global trends, as golf is becoming more inclusive with South Africa as a good example.

During the tournament at Muthaiga, only three Kenyans made the cut. I hear the game has been on the decline for the last five years as no new golfers are streaming and the old golfers and caddies who turn pro are the ones representing Kenya.

Then we have a problem with the boy child who is a caddie. Most have become alcoholics. They are not ambitious. Instead of graduating to the next level of being players like the late John Mucheru, most wait for daily pay and run to the nearest pub thereafter. This means we have a long way to go and the competition is way ahead of our local pros.

I don’t know what happened to golf academies. For as long as we continue depending on people to become club members to play golf, then the sport will remain a game for people to cut deals. Believe me, the middle class who gets the money to become members won’t take the game serious as for most being members of golf clubs means fitting to the upper class.