To hold the golf club is to travel in the past for Gabriel Wanguhu, a veteran golfer. Each swing is a reminder of the glorious years past. At 79, he is the oldest golfer and member of the Nyahururu Sports Club in Laikipia.
Although he no longer rocks the club with the same vitality he did 30 years ago, Wanguhu says he is not ready to let the club down. “I will play until I give up. For him, golf is not just a passion, it’s also a lifestyle.
“I play a nine a day every week. I come here in the afternoon to train and play with my friends,” he says, adding, “I usually like to play sports. When I was younger, I used to go to the pool at 7 a.m. before going to the office.”
In his prime, the former director of the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) played at Handicap 4, having started at Handicap 24. Now that age is weighing on him fast, he stumbled at Handicap 13.
He explains: “The swing isn’t as powerful as it used to be. Concentration is also not as good as before. But at my age, it’s acceptable.
The golfer knows this course like the back of his hand. It was here that he made a name for himself in the golf world. A record nine-time club championship winner, six consecutive triumphs, he is easily a local legend.
Wanguhu was among the members who revived the century-old club in 1989 after it fell into disuse for more than 20 years following the departure of the colonialists. To restore it, he and others had to clear the course of elephant grass, plant trees and trace its title back to South Africa where it was taken.
Among the founding members, he is one of the few survivors. He said wistfully, “Most of the members are dead now. The others don’t play anymore. They just walk the course.”
This septuagenarian has not left a club in his entire adult life. ”When I got my first job, I joined the Nakuru Athletic Club. Later, I joined this club after moving to Nyahururu.”
His children and grandchildren also took up golf. ”I raised my children in the club. It makes me happy to see them play. When my sons and grandchildren are visiting, I don’t play anyone else at the club but them.
He wonders, “Why would anyone go to class without their children? You don’t want them to follow you?” Nothing makes him happier than the interactions on the course.
“Sometimes you will be confused when you come to the club. But when you start playing, you forget everything. It’s a great sport for relaxing.
Love on the first try
His interest in golf was born by accident. Before 1984, he had not touched a golf club. ”I had not touched a club. My friend introduced me to the game.” It was love on the first try.
Of the many rounds he has contested, a championship final in the 1990s tops the others. He and his great rival played until the 19th hole after a draw after 18 holes. Wanguhu had the advantage of three more shots after his opponent’s ball flew into the bush. It was his game to lose.
”I was waiting to place the ball on the green. From there, I was winning. After our fourth hit, he stuck the ball to the pin. My shot went into the bush. I could not believe it. I lost to him. It was the most unlikely and painful loss of my career.
Apart from his home ground, Wanguhu has played at virtually every course in the country, from Muthaiga to Sigona, Railways, Limuru and Thika Greens. He has also played regionally in Kampala and Arusha.
On how the game has evolved over the years, Wanguhu says there are more black people playing than before when most players were white. ”The equipment was inferior then. We used wooden sticks. Things have changed. The quality of the equipment has made the sport easier.”
He says many golfers today start playing early, honing their skills along the way. “My generation of golfers started playing in their 40s and 50s. I was 46 when I hit a club.
Nevertheless, he is happy to have tried golf. ”Without sport, I’m not sure I would be able to leave home at this age. I would probably use a cane. Walking the course is a good form of exercise.”
Unless he is engaged elsewhere or out of town, Wanguhu is a daily visitor to the Nyahururu Sports Club, his home being within walking distance of the facility, where he is now an honorary member in recognition. of his service to the establishment.
He agrees that golf has failed to shed its elite sport tag, noting that the lack of public courses in the country is to blame for the situation.
”The majority of Kenyans cannot access a course as these belong to member-only clubs. This problem must be solved by creating courses where anyone interested in the sport can play.
Golf taught him a lot about life, but above all discipline. “There are times when the ball challenges you. You will only hit him with precision so that he flies into the bush. But you have to keep trying to outdo yourself no matter what.”