After two false starts, the 96th edition of the Tannahill Shield is set for Friday when Kenya’s top amateurs square it out in a three day foursomes extravaganza at Royal Nairobi Golf Club. It will be the first time the country’s oldest inter-club tournament will be held outside the traditional Easter period after the event was called off last year and early this year due to the ravaging coronavirus.
Inexplicably, the Tannahill Shield competition which was first held in 1924 as a competition pitting two clubs, has been reduced to a contest between Team Royal and Team Muthaiga. In fact, these two teams have won five times each in the last ten editions reducing other competitors to cheerleaders. So is this the year the Tannahill Shield will find a new home away from Royal or Muthaiga?
On paper Team Royal is the favourite to retain the shield. Team Royal has everything going for them at the moment. Besides the home ground advantage, Team Royal is currently riding high on the Nairobi District Captains League charts after clinching the title last year for the first time in 33 years. “Winning the league has given us much confidence and momentum. But we have to appreciate that the league is played using the better ball format while Tannahill is a foursomes contest played off scratch,” observed Charan Tethy, the Royal resident pro.
Interestingly, Team Royal will field the same team that won the title two years ago. Tethy says they have only made one change to the team, meaning the nine players who narrowly won it for Royal will be treading on familiar grounds. “We have a 50/50 mix of youth and experience. We know it is going to be extremely difficult this time as many teams have really improved. A team like Muthaiga has very many young players who have a lot of international exposure, “said Tethy.
It has not been smooth sailing for Muthaiga in recent times. Having last won the trophy in 2017, Muthaiga had a bad outing in 2019 finishing a distant fourth. “The 2019 tournament was a learning period for us. Our team collapsed on the final day due to inexperience. We fielded many juniors who had never played in the tournament before. This year 75% of our players are from the junior ranks and have now acquired the requisite experience. In fact four of our players are currently in golf school in South Africa,” Jeff Kubwa, Muthaiga Golf Club pro disclosed.
The competition will bring together nine teams each comprising of 10 players. Team Karen will make a comeback to replace Team Windsor which was relegated during the last tournament. Traditionally, the team that finishes last among the Nairobi based clubs is relegated. Mombasa and Western teams are permanent invitees and are therefore never in danger of being relegated. The other teams from Nairobi are Limuru, Railway, Vetlab and Sigona.
The inter-club foursome event is played over four rounds in three days. One round is played on Friday, while Saturday features a grueling 36-hole test with players wrapping up the tournament with an 18-hole round on Sunday morning.
The organizing committee has backtracked on the pledge to include Thika in this year’s event, a commitment they had made in 2019. Attempts to increase the number of participating teams have long been on the cards. But these have been rebuffed by conservative voices that have often cited a congested fixture. It also remains unclear whether the Kshs 1 million prize money promised by sponsors in 2019 will be availed during this year’s tournament.