• Njeri was then thrown into the deep end and had only graced the range twice with her first full 18-hole experience three days to the junior tournament.
• "As club captain, I was tasked to announce the results at the prize-giving ceremony and when it came to naming Njeri the winner, I almost wept, given my role as her coach,” Orwenyo explains.
When Nancy Steinmann visited Ngala School for the Deaf in Nakuru in search of raw golf talent, she settled on a group of 11 enthusiastic greenhorns.
She took them under her wings and five days to the 11th leg of the Safaricom Golf Series on July 10, the ten deaf golfers were offered the priceless opportunity to not only familiarise themselves with the rules of the game but to also hone their skills under the tutelage of professional coaches and caddies.
Lucy Muthoni, Ricalda Akinyi, Esther Muthoni, Charity Jerotich, Triza Muthoni, Moses Ntete, Enock Otieno, Belvin Ng'ang'a, Johanna Kamakei, IanMathenge and Reinhardt Mutharimi were among the pupils chosen to join Steinmann’s stable at Nakuru Golf Club.
In addition, Jacinta Njeri, a Class Seven pupil at the school, was called upon to accompany them to offer the much-needed moral support in this magnificent game of 'greens and fairways'.
But little did the 15-year-old girl know that she was headed for greater things. When her schoolmates were taken to the range and practice green, coach Shem Orwenyo, the Nakuru Golf Club captain, discovered some latent talent in Njeri’s hitting and putting skills when the opportunity to play with the golf clubs presented itself.
Orwenyo came to the conclusion that Njeri would be part of the deaf team for the Safaricom tournament.
Njeri was then thrown into the deep end and had only graced the range twice with her first full 18-hole experience three days before the junior tournament, which was preceded by the seniors' event.
Her next assignment was the Safaricom Junior tournament where she flabbergasted all and sundry by winning the girls’ trophy.
“When Njeri was offered the chance, we quickly noticed her talent more so in the manner in which she was hitting the ball. She was also putting well. As club captain, I was tasked to announce the results at the prize-giving ceremony and when it came to naming Njeri the winner, I almost wept, given my role as her coach,” Orwenyo explains.
Njeri’s victory has since inspired her schoolmates to take up golf and also demystified the notion that golf is a sport for the opulent.
She wants to emulate Vet Lab’s Isaac Makokha, who became the first-ever Kenyan deaf golfer to win a medal (bronze) at the 24th Deaflympics in Caxias Do Sul in Brazil.
Speaking through her sign language interpreter and English teacher Helen Atieno, Njeri notes: “When our sponsor (Nancy) came to our school and I was called upon to accompany the young ones for golfing sessions, I treated it as another school tour not knowing that things will change for the better.”
“I’m involved in other sports but golf appeared quite enjoyable from the onset compared to the others. But I never imagined being on a podium. In addition one does not need to use a lot of energy when playing golf. Instead, focus is directed towards the tee boxes, greens and the fairways,” Njeri observes.
She reveals how she is also involved in volleyball, athletics, netball in addition to possessing a penchant for dancing.
“I really enjoyed playing in the tournament, although I experienced some challenges as I was not able to communicate with the other players. The weather also proved to be quite a challenge because it was very cold during our morning tee off and it started raining thereafter, which had an effect on my play,” says Njeri. “I felt quite scared on my first few holes, but as the game wore on, it was business as usual.”
Njeri expresses gratitude to the tour organisers, saying: “The coaches and caddies were of great help. They made us feel as though playing golf had been a routine and helped eliminate the stage fright, which usually comes with being new on the course. They gave us the attires and snacks and provided an enabling environment.”
“My family members were happy and surprised to see the trophy I won and I am happy that they helped me realise my potential in golf. I’m now thinking of how I can become a better player at national level.”
Njeri, whose family resides in Mau Narok, says she has learnt that golf is a game of honesty and truthfulness, the same as when one is marking the scores.
“Creativity, honesty and mobility are the key attributes of playing good golf,” Njeri says.
Her ambition is to play in England and America especially in the PGA Ladies Tour and the Ladies European Tour (LET).
“Since joining the sport, I have always admired television clips of American tour pro golfers. No particular names in mind, but they are great players,” she says.
Atieno said it has been a challenge supporting the deaf players since caddies at Nakuru Club are not conversant with sign language.
She says: “We haven’t had caddies who understand sign language at Nakuru Golf Club and we are therefore moving along with our boys and girls as interpreters all through their competitions. But the idea of caddies, teachers and deaf golfers sticking together creates a unique bond that comes in handy in match situations.”
Sammy Terer, deputy principal at Ngala School, says their motto is to produce holistic deaf individuals who are productive, self-reliant and well-integrated. He explains that Njeri’s new venture, alongside the rest of the deaf golfers from the school, resonates well with their motto.
“Being deaf doesn’t mean one is sick. Golf is now a new game in our school as new as Njeri three months ago. We thought golf was a rich man’s sport but Njeri’s incredible story proved us all wrong and also opened our minds,” says Terer.
Terer is calling on sponsors and well-wishers to come forward and enable the group of school golfers to realise their potential in the sport.
“Playing tournaments in and outside town can prove challenging and this is one area we will be willing to partner with the corporate world and individual sponsors to realise our potential in this wonderful sport,” concludes Terer.