The just-concluded Karen Challenge demonstrated the depth of budding talent in the amateur ranks as the juniors swept five out of the top six positions to lock out their experienced competitors.
In an unprecedented move, the youngsters dominated the proceedings from start to finish in the sixth leg of the Kenya Amateur Golf Championship, KAGC, won by Muthaiga’s Taimur Malik. Only Kenya Matchplay champion John Lejirma who finished second, prevented the youngsters from achieving a clean sweep.
Buoyed by this success, the cocky youngsters are now plotting more upsets in the upcoming rounds in what they see as the beginning of a new order that will see them dominate the proceedings at the elite amateur level.
But the result at Karen was not by chance. The youngsters have been knocking at the door for a while this year. Notably, Nyali Club’s Adel Balala has been the most consistent performer in the cohort finishing in the top five in four out of the last six events. In fact what is preventing the youngsters from challenging at the top of the Order of Merit is their perpetual absence from KAGC events due to commitments abroad.
T-OFF News spoke to the leading youngsters after the Karen Challenge round.
TAIMUR MALIK (Handicap -2)
Honestly, I didn’t expect to win the event at Karen. My plan was to just play conservatively, keep it simple. I am so glad that I managed to register my second win in KGU events having won in Kericho in 2019. I am optimistic that the stage is now set for more victories if I will manage to take part in more tournaments. Since joining the golf school in South Africa, I have really improved my game. The South Africa experience made me tournament-ready since we play so many events. I feel like I have a long way to go before I reach my peak as there are so many things to work on and improve if I want to consider taking this game professionally. Overall, the standard of the game among junior golfers has really improved of late. We have been given a lot of opportunities, thanks to KGU, to play in international tournaments on international standard courses. We are now definitely ready for bigger challenges.
ADEL BALALA (Handicap -2)
Young golfers performed well at Karen because we have access to better training facilities and we have the privilege of playing and getting coached abroad, thanks to our parents’ efforts. I see us dominating the local game going forward because we are more athletic, stronger and have time to sacrifice to train. The athletic advantage and the mentality to attack gives us the slight edge. We have no veterans in the KAGC anymore. No one aged above 30 years can match the standard we young players are at the moment. There are technicalities in this game that are not merely captured through tournament scores but certainly through swing mechanics, mental approach and raw knowledge which come with exposure. I am still very far from reaching the peak of my game but my short term plan is to turn pro and eventually help develop golf in Kenya by mentoring young players.
MUTAHI KIBUGU (Handicap -2)
Karen is a top golf course and most of the juniors who did perform well practice and train for such conditions. The future is certainly looking good for most youngsters as our exposure from playing in many tournaments abroad is beginning to count. I plan to turn pro and try play at a world stage.
KAREN CHALLENGE LEADERBOARD
T Malik 214
J Lejirma 216
A Balala 217
N Kibugu 218
M. Kibugu 218
L Zurovac 222
D Maara 222
M Karanga 223
J Sandhu 224
K Mediratta 225