Kenya Railway are the new Nairobi Captains District League champions after winning the title they had lost in the previous season to Royal Nairobi Golf Club. The win, the fifth for the Lions, came on the final day of the league season at Kiambu Golf Club in a tight race that saw the defending champions finish second. It was a sweet victory for the Lions who finished a distant seventh in the previous season as the Nairobi Captains District League adopted a new format.
Here are the reasons that made “Team Reli” unstoppable in 2021:
When the new league format that did away with the league tiers- Super, Main and Subsidiary- came into play in 2019, Railway struggled so much to find the right pairings resulting in a dismal performance. However, the capping of the strokes limit to eight last season gave Team Reli a perfect opportunity to rework their pairings.
“We did a lot of analysis before coming up with steady pairings. These ranged from performance in club competitions to league matches. Eventually we got the right formula at the beginning of the season and stuck to those combinations. This ensured that there was very good chemistry in the team all through. In fact, some of the pairs never lost a match-whether home or away-throughout the season!” said Onassis Ndegwa, Railway League Convenor.
The Railway golf course is considered one of the most challenging in the country, its short length notwithstanding. Interestingly, the Kenya Golf Union course rating committee rated Railway among the least challenging courses in the country with a Course Rating of 70.5 and Slope Rating of 135. And this is an advantage Team Reli used to the fullest.
In six home matches, the Lions scored an average of 23 points per game! The highest harvest was against Ruiru Sports Club when Team Reli reaped a whopping 27.25 points while Royal were the only visitors to leave with a respectable return of 10 points. Under the league rules, all clubs are required to field a minimum of 15 teams with each team playing for maximum two points. There are 30 maximum points per round. All players play off their full handicap subject to 90% of handicap difference.
Buoyed by home form, Railways saw away matches as an excellent opportunity to build on their momentum. In an unprecedented performance, the Lions lost only one away match-the season opener at Sigona- after managing only 10 points. However, in the subsequent five away games, Railway won all their matches- against Muthaiga, Golf Park, Windsor, Thika Greens and Kiambu- with an average score of 19.5 points. Windsor was the Lion’s best hunting ground where Railway managed 23.17 points.
Large pool of players
Having won the Nairobi Captains District League on four occasions, the Railway membership is always eager to play in the competition. The club has had the luxury of fielding the country’s top amateurs- John Lejirma, Samuel Njoroge- in the league assignments who are strategically combined with low and mid-handicapped players. On average Railway has more than 70 players to choose from when heading for league matches. “The passion is amazing. Though we try as much as possible to ensure that everyone gets a piece of the pie, we have a performance based system that determines who plays. It is not uncommon to find some good pairs on the substitutes bench for failing to show consistency,” said Ndegwa.
Interestingly, there have been complaints of low handicap players in many clubs giving the league a wide berth since the format was changed two years ago as they feel greatly disadvantaged especially when playing against high handicappers more so in away matches. In some cases, the League has also been shorn of marquee players who choose to focus only on the Tanahill Shield. The busy Kenya Amateur Golf Challenge calendar has also robbed the League of elite amateurs.