Over the last five months, the name Robson Chinhoi has become synonymous with the Safari Tour.
Starved of professional golf events and facing the vagaries of an economy in recession, when Robson Chinhoi embarked on the 2,800 km journey from Harare to Nairobi in October 2020, he had two goals to accomplish; make money on the Safari Tour and earn a ticket to the Magical Kenya Open 2021 tournament.
Five months later the 29 year old has more than accomplished his mission. Kshs 1.4 million richer after winning three Tour events and the coveted Magical Kenya slot secured, Chinhoi can now dare to dream of bigger things.
The arrival of Chinhoi on the Safari Tour scene has no doubt breathed the much-needed fresh air in the series. Largely unknown in Kenya when he made his debut on the Tour during the 2019/20 season, Chinhoi has taken the tournament by storm challenging Kenya’s leading pros with a brand of exciting golf that has sent the locals to the drawing board.
After trying his luck in more than five countries in West and Southern Africa, Chinhoi seems to have finally found his second home in Nairobi. The extrovert Zimbabwean now even speaks basic Kiswahili and mingles freely with locals.
His haul of three titles and a couple of runner up finishes on the Tour this season has seen him set up a fierce rivalry with veteran Dismas Indiza. In fact Indiza had to dig deep on the final day of the ninth leg of the Safari Tour to stop Chinhoi from clinching the overall Order of Merit title.
The affable Chinhoi spoke to T-OFF News on a wide range of issues including his love for Kenya, emerging rivalry with Indiza, what he thinks about Kenyan professional golfers and his long term plans.
How did you manage to participate in the Safari Tour the whole season?
For me to play here for five consecutive months has been a big gamble and sacrifice. I have had set up a base here and been home only once, that was during the Christmas break. I have had to live on the little I make on the Safari Tour as I chase my ultimate goal of playing in Kenya Open. I am grateful to my colleagues in Kenya, especially my best friend Jastas Madoya, who have made my stay here comfortable.
Prior to joining the Safari Tour, where else had you played?
I started playing golf in November 2012 after finishing school. I played for three years as an amateur before turning pro in 2015. Immediately I started moving around Africa looking for opportunities. I played in West Africa mainly in Gabon, Ivory Coast and Nigeria. That’s where there were numerous tournaments because we had nothing back home. I was not a member of Sunshine Tour and I didn’t even have money to play in South Africa. So I had to go look for money in West Africa so that I can save enough to join the Sunshine Tour. Though I didn’t win any tournament in West Africa I had several top five finishes which earned me good money to participate in Sunshine Tour events. I first came to Kenya in 2018 for Karen Masters when I was a member of Sunshine Tour. Though I didn’t make the cut, I loved the experience
The Sunshine Tour is more lucrative than the Safari Tour, why do you prioritize Safari Tour and Kenya open?
You see it’s easier to qualify for Kenya open through the Safari Tour than the Sunshine Tour. For me to qualify for Kenya Open through the Sunshine Tour maybe I need to be in top five in the Order of Merit. My chances there were very remote so I decided to come and give myself a more realistic chance through the Safari Tour. I played on Sunshine Tour in 2018 and 2019 and I can tell you the competition there is tough. In terms of the prize money, its true the Safari Tour doesn’t pay well though I believe it’s going to grow big with time. My primary focus is on Kenya Open. This event is a very big thing in my life, to play in a European tour event is a great opportunity. It’s a very big chance for me and it may just be the breakthrough I have been long waiting for.
What do you think of the Kenyan professional golfers?
The professional golfers in Kenya are very good. Unfortunately, they lack support. Playing in Kenya alone isn’t helping them. In this game you need maximum exposure. They need to be supported to play outside Kenya. To improve your game at this level you have run around playing with different people at different levels, like South Africa, you know, the level of competition down there is something else. You can see the way Indiza is playing… I think the difference between Indiza and the other Kenyans is exposure. Indiza has got more experience earned from playing outside Kenya. With that experience and exposure when he gets to the golf course he’s very composed.
Indiza seems to be your main challenger on Safari Tour? How do you feel whenever you are paired up?
I always relish matchups with Indiza. Every golfer enjoys playing against a competitor who challenges and pushes you all the way. When playing against Indiza, you have to be switched on throughout the match. Any slight slip and you are finished. His long and short game is so consistent that you have to produce your best game to beat him. But remember ultimately we don’t play against each other, but against the course. So whoever beats the course, is the one who gets rewarded.
Following your success, are we likely to see more Zimbabweans joining the Safari Tour?
Things are tough back at home. We are not getting enough support for us to go and play outside. I assure you we have very good players back at home, some even better than me and they would love to play here. At least two Nyasha Muyambo and Visitor Mapwanya joined Safari Tour in the last three events and they performed very well managing top 10 finishes. Since we do not have any competitions taking place at home you will definitely see four or five of us next season.
What’s your long-term plan?
I am firmly focused on the upcoming Magical Kenya and The Savannah Classic tournaments. I am not going in there just to participate or chase unambitious goals like making the cut. I have set myself the target of playing -15 in each of the events and this will definitely earn me a good ranking. I am aware players from the Safari Tour haven’t performed very well at Kenya Open. I blame it on lack of self-belief. Unless we believe in ourselves, we shall always feel intimidated whenever the European players set foot here. My advice to my colleagues is that we should not be overawed by the presence of the Europeans, let us play against the course and not be distracted by their game plan. I have set myself an ambitious target of playing on the PGA Tour in five years’ time. I believe this journey will commence in earnest during the two European Tour events at Karen next month.