There is a saying that goes “a drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall”. This came to mind when I remembered the very first time, I received a ‘prize’ in a golf competition many decades ago.
I had accompanied my father to Kiambu Golf Club when I was about ten years old and since I was not handicapped, I was made to play alone in front of the first flight in the afternoon.
There were no other children at the club and even though I played alone, I enjoyed being out on the golf course. I did not understand the Rules of Golf but the captain of the time still gave me a scorecard to write my scores. I went out with my three clubs and a putter which were hand-me-downs from my father.
After the first nine, I handed my card back to the Captain and went on to play in the children’s play area. I had to wait for my father to finish his round and since I had a carte blanche to eat what I wanted and play and swim, I was happy.
In those days, the clubs did not have golf administrators and the golf captain was charged with compiling the scores of all the players. This was the period before computers and all things were done on a book and all the calculations were carried out by the captain. Despite all this, the presentations started promptly at 7.30pm.
During presentation, the captain called out my name as the ‘junior winner’ and gave me five shillings from his pocket. I was over the moon and went on to celebrate with a soft drink that I paid for with my winnings. In those days, a bottle of soda was one shilling and ten cents.
I then bought chocolate to take to my sisters. The patron of Kiambu Golf Club at the time, Hon. Njenga Karume (God rest his soul), also bought me another bottle of soda. I felt like a true champion and probably the sugar rush added to the joy of the day. It is definitely not allowed to give cash to any amateur golfer no matter how little the amount might be. The amateur golfer who receives cash as a reward for winning a competition is bound for loss of their amateur status.
The act by the then captain of Kiambu Golf Club was just meant to encourage me to continue playing and even though I returned my card, it was not part of the competition. His kind gesture and how it made me feel has not been forgotten many decades later.
Many of today’s captains seem not to go out of their way to encourage the young golfers. It is sad to hear that some even deny the junior golfers prizes that they have legitimately won on the course by beating the adults from the same tees and having cards that are properly marked. It is time that the captains realised that children don’t forget a kind or cruel gesture for the rest of their lives.
It dawned on me that club vouchers may be the simplest and allowable way to reward the junior golfers when they have played good rounds. Such vouchers that the recipients can use to buy a plate of chips and a soda at the club is allowable as a prize, as long as the voucher cannot be exchanged for cash.
This will be the drop of honey that will make the children feel good about playing the game of golf. It will be the sweetener that will draw more junior golfers to participate in the game. Ignoring the young ones when they play and hoping that they will grow to be great golfers is a strategy that is doomed to fail.
Wang’ombe is the General Manager of Kenya Open Golf Limited