Twelve junior golf players are beneficiaries of a three-day high-performance training camp organized by the Kenya Golf Union in conjunction with the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St.Andrews, Scotland.
Kenya is one of only three countries that have benefited from the high-performance training, the others being Egypt and Zimbabwe. The 12 participants were carefully selected by the Kenya Golf Union, the Kenya Ladies Golf Union and the Junior Golf Foundation. KGU picked Daniel Kiragu, Elvis Muigwa and Mikael Kihara. The KLGU offered their four slots to the upcoming under-18 girls while the JGF picked two girls and two boys for the training.
“Their game has developed from them playing high handicaps to dropping very quickly in the last two years. We have seen really good progression with that, and the fact that they were selected for the high performance just gives a testament of where we have come from in junior golf and where we are going in the future – where we can start playing in the ranks of being one of the countries selected for a programme as prestigious as this,” said JGF president Regina Gachora.
The lead coach at the high-performance training Paul McKenzie from the Pure Motion Golf Academy of South Africa was impressed by the young golfers, especially after staying out in the hot sun for three days of learning. He would have loved to have a bigger number to train going by the talent he saw.
“We would love to have more here. But as soon as we have more, we would need more coaches, and more time. The mix of 12 students and six coaches is really good. We can manage that with two coaches, and one of our major objectives is to up the standards of coaching and we are able to use the students as well to up that standard of coaching,” explained McKenzie.
The coaches worked on the juniors’ short game and long game on alternate days, allowing the students to practice under their watchful eye. They took time to explain the elements of the game and where the Kenyan players could improve to have a better result on the course. After the training, the coaches will monitor the progress of the students to assess the improvements, if any, in their game.
“We always keep a finger on the pie. So the Kenya coaches are closer on the ground to those kids. We stay in touch with those coaches and that is how we monitor them (the students). “
Naomi Wafula who is based in Kilifi at the Vipingo Ridge is one of the beneficiaries of the high-performance camp. Naomi says her long will surely change after the three days sessions with coach Mckenzie.
“When we did the change with my long game, I had a really strong grip and I thought that was perfect, but apparently sometimes when I hit a bad shot, it was really a bad hook, so a lot of the times I was missing some shots. Now with my new neutral grip, I’m hitting straight shots, so that is going to give me more percentage of green in regulation. So that’s something I didn’t know and I’m glad they taught me that,” beamed Naomi.
Daniel Kiragu who will be heading to Abu Dhabi for the Faldo Junior Tour Grand Finale in November says the training will go a long way in improving his game ahead of the international tournament.
“We have learnt a lot, especially for me there was some slight change in my swing and my technique. Everything has been going all right, a few tips here and there especially in the short game. Hopefully, I can practice all and everything can come into sequence and hopefully, I can be performing well,” explained Kiragu.
For the junior golf foundation, this is a pathway to develop the junior players to become future pro golfers. The Africa High-Performance programme is crucial in the long term goal of qualifying golfers for the 2028 Olympic Games.
“We are putting the elite squad into camp for five months where they will be training for 2-3 times a week. Then a squad for the Africa Junior championship is going to be done in January,” concluded president Gachora.
The players at the camp were Naomi Wafula, Elvis Muigwa, Mikael Kihara, Daniel Kiragu, Krish Shah, Jelani Kihanya, Biaca Ngecu, Belinda Wanjiru, Audrey Gachora, Cherono Kipkorir, Hazel Kuria and Navya Nagda.
The coaches included John Van Liefland, Alfred Nandwa, Joyline Jepchirchir, Joyce Wanjiru and Shem Orwenyo. The training was facilitated by AHPP Coaches Paul McKenzie and Johan Du Buisson.