Several professional golfers could be locked out of the game if they fail to comply with the tough licensing requirements imposed by the government under the Sports Act. The professional Golfers of Kenya, PGK, is currently grappling with the reality that the stringent conditions may be a tough mountain to climb for some of its members.
The Sports Act requires all professional athletes to get a license from the government. The license which is renewable after every two years is granted subject to obtaining clearance from numerous institutions. Among the requirements, athletes must get a certificate of good and clearance from Kenya Revenue Authority for tax compliance certificate, Higher Education Loans Board, Credit Reference Bureau and health certification.
“Actually this was enacted in 2013 so it’s been in play almost seven years. The government has now started tightening the screw. Once you get the requisite clearances, you lodge those papers at the Registrar of sports. Anybody who wants to turn pro now needs to be aware of the fact that they need to get that license before we can approve their application,” said Charan Tethy, Chairman Professional Golfers of Kenya, PGK.
So far about 15 professional golfers have acquired the new permits and PGK has now asked its entire membership to move fast and comply before it’s too late. PGK is considering imposing a deadline to hasten compliance.
“Most likely this will be end of August or mid-September this year for everybody to have gotten their licenses so that they can continue competing in our tournaments or teaching or being club pros. It’s not an easy thing to comply with. It’s difficult because there’s a lot of paperwork required. However, I think it’s a positive going forward. It will help us going forward to just get more structure in all our associations. It also brings about a certain type of membership amongst the associations where people are accountable,” noted Tethy.
The number of golfers turning professional has been on the rise over the last five years. Today PGK boasts of a roll of 65 members. This has seen PGK revise its admission requirements to check on quality. For instance, a player must now play off handicap zero or lower to be admitted to pro ranks. This is drastic revision from the earlier provision where anyone playing off handicap five could turn professional. One must have also represented the country at international amateur events besides being a consistent top performer at the Kenya Golf Union GOTY series.
“We’ve admitted almost 15 to 20 professionals over the last five years. And the good thing about it is that they’re getting younger coming out of GOTY events and some of them even from junior ranks. Most of them come from the honorary membership programs at the clubs so they have a good understanding of what is required of them as far as etiquette, behaviour, attitude and so many other things are concerned. We are hoping in the next two years we’ll be up to about 80 to 90 professionals. Our goal is obviously to reach the 100 mark,” said Tethy.
PGK has also introduced a mandatory requirement that upon turning pro, members have to undertake a two year course to be certified to teach while club pros undergo a three year training. Said Tethy: “We have established strong links with the South African PGA. So far we’ve been able to do two courses; Level one and Level two. We are hoping in the next three to five months we can conduct the Level 3 course. Golf in Kenya is growing pretty fast. New clubs are coming up and so eventually they will require club pros and teaching pros. So the more qualified our professionals become the better. “