By Larry Ngala
Nanyuki Sports Club’s Marion Kuria Githinji produced an unbeatable 47 stableford points at Vipingo Ridge Golf Resort’s PGA Baobab Course on August 6, to emerge the overall winner of the inaugural Safaricom Golf Tour’s grand finale.
Playing off handicap 37, Githinji, who was among the four qualifiers from the opening leg of the Tour in Nanyuki in February, beat the strong wind and tricky greens on the challenging par 72 Kilifi County course, despite having warmed up for only nine holes on Friday due to late arrival.
“I arrived late on Friday, so I was able to play a few holes to have the feel of the course, but I am very delighted to have managed to score well and emerge the overall winner,” she said.
“This was my first time playing at Vipingo, and I must thank Safaricom for having given us the opportunity…. This was a well-thought-out initiative by Safaricom,” added Githinji, who noted that she will encourage more ladies to play golf.
“I have been practising hard over the past three months because I wanted to play well here. I will continue practising, as I would like to improve my handicap,” she said. The Safaricom national golf champion promised to also encourage her seven-year-old son to play more golf.
Men’s and ladies’ titles
It all started with a couple of pars at the front nine, which eventually produced 23 points, though it was the back nine’s 24 points that assured Githinji of the overall trophy, a number of takeaway prizes which included a Samsung S22 mobile phone, Craigs Voucher worth Ksh50,000 and air time worth Ksh10,000, courtesy of Safaricom.
Taking the ladies’ trophy with an impressive 44 points was Grace Naserian from Kenya Air Force Eastleigh Golf Club. She won ahead of Royal Nairobi’s Elizabeth Njau, who won the 14th leg at her home club last weekend. She posted 32 points at Vipingo.
The men’s title went to Kericho Golf Club’s Kipkurui Langat, with 36 points, after beating Erastus Orina on countback.
Habil Olaka, the Chief Executive Officer of the Kenya Bankers Association, posted an impressive 42 points to lead the guests, while Alice Awiti, who emerged the winner of the Eldoret leg of the tour, became the staff winner with an excellent 46 points.
The two nines went to Justin Ongere on 22 points, and Virginia Munyau, who carded 23 points.
In the subsidiary events, Naomi Wafula won the ladies’ longest drive title after hitting a 265-metre drive, while the men’s title went to Collins Too, who drove to 280 metres.
It was a tough day though for James Kihiu, who could only take home the “Piga Mingi” prize after posting 17 points. The caddie winner was Kennedy Irungu.
Safaricom chief executive officer, Peter Ndegwa, expressed his pleasure with the success of the inaugural Safaricom Golf Tour which attracted over 9,000 players. Speaking during the prize-giving ceremony, Ndegwa paid tribute to the organisers of all the 14 legs of the Tour that drew in 7,000 juniors.
“The whole idea of starting the tour is to encourage Kenyan youths to play the game even if they come from the underprivileged section of society,” said Ndegwa, who expressed confidence that very soon, Kenya will produce talented young players capable of winning international events such as the Magical Kenya Open.
“We had invested Ksh100 million in the Tour, which, besides the 14 events, included an outreach programme where youngsters from places like Mathare in Nairobi had a chance to be introduced to the game,” said Ndegwa.
Speaking on behalf of the Kenya Golf Union (KGU) and Junior Golf Foundation (JGF), KGU Vice-Chairman Philip Ochola, said the union appreciated the efforts by Safaricom to develop the game.
Ochola said the Tour had created a lot of interest in the junior golf, especially through the golf clinics conducted during the tour, with registration increasing from 280 players in 2021 to 590.