What you need to know:
- One year later, Naomi is not only looking to make the cut but seeks to finish higher up the order
Kenyan elite amateur, Naomi Wafula, made history in 2023 after she made the cut at the Magical Kenya Ladies Open to become the only Kenyan to have attained the feat.
One year later, Naomi is not only looking at repeating the achievement, but seeks to finish higher up the order – having gotten decent exposure at tournaments in Europe over the past twelve months.
We spoke to her ahead of her pro-am round of the 2024 Magical Kenya Ladies Open (MKLO) on her last year’s achievement, her preparation journey since, and what she aims to achieve at this year’s tournament at the Vipingo Ridge, Kilifi County.
Q: You made history as the first Kenyan to have made the cut at this event last year. Talk us through what that meant for you.
A: Last year was amazing; I recorded great achievements having made the cut especially as I made it just above the cut line. I was happy to have played with Aditi Ashok - who won last year’s tournament – on the first two days and was happy to have inspired junior golfers to believe that they could also play in an LET tournament and make the cut.
Q: Later you managed to take part in several golf events in Europe. How was the experience for you and how has it helped you prepare for this tournament?
A: Soon after MKLO, I got an invite from U.COM Event – the organizers of MKLO – to play at the Amundi German Masters. Thereafter, I got more invites from U.COM and played seven more events across seven countries in Europe across three months. I also got a chance to do some training back in Germany with the some of the best golf coaches, so it was a really great experience. When I came back to Kenya, I played in three tournaments and I must say, the training I underwent back in Europe truly paid off. I managed to outperform my competitors and won the 2023 Kiambu Open against top golfers like Michael Karanga, who currently holds the title of the top male golfer in Kenya. So, I am happy with the experience I had last year, and this year, I am looking at making even greater achievements.
Q: Ahead of the 2024 Magical Kenya Ladies Open, what is your goal at the tournament?
A: After my Pro-Am round today, my main goal is to not just make the cut, but also record a good score that will give me a good finish at the event.
Q: What has your preparation been like ahead of this tournament and what are your plans after this event?
A: I have been doing more mental than physical preparation because I was a little bit sick so, I was off the course for a few days, but I am happy and back stronger. I have been preparing a lot mentally, drinking a lot of liquids, eating healthy, doing a lot of stretches, so, I am feeling very much prepared. Two weeks ago, I was spending a lot of time on the range and on the golf course. So, my preparations have come in well and now it is time to showcase it and I'm really looking forward to it. After this event, I go straight to South Africa for the Africa amateur tournament which I am looking forward to.
Q: What is your approach going into this tournament, given your vast knowledge of this golf course?
A: I would say that I have a big advantage over everyone else because I have been playing here almost every day, I know the course in and out so, that's a big advantage on my end and everybody looking up to me and also the other Kenyans. We are looking forward to this and hope to make everybody proud. We are also grateful to the sponsors – both those supporting the event and all my personal sponsors as well: Vipingo Ridge, U.COM and some of the members here at Vipingo Ridge. I am just excited for all the support.
Q: Finally, what are your thoughts on the new Pro-Am format where Pro golfers only get to play nine holes and not the entire course?
A: I think this is a good format because it doesn’t get the pros too exhausted. Their focus is the main event and they don’t want to be too tired before then. With the heat being too much, the pros can take it easy going into the main tournament, and also get time to acclimatize with the conditions especially since some of the players here have just come from very cold weather.