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Prince of swing

Sandra Wekesa

Tell us about yourself

I am Jamie Ateka, a passionate sports enthusiast. I go to AIPCA Bahati Academy. I will be turning 11 in February and I hope to take my sporting enthusiasm to the next level.

I love speed and more speed, and this is what makes me return to the golf course time and again. I go golfing with my dad and we love trying out various courses.

Our home course is Golf Park at Nairobi Racecourse. In golf, I have always savoured the flight of tee shots on the fairways and the hair-raising thrills in motorsport.

When not golfing, I love watching Formula 1, Motor GP and the World Rally Championship (WRC) on pay TV channels. The best part in the ‘fast and furious’ sports is when the racing drivers try to achieve new limits.

I also play table tennis in my spare time. Dad happens to be the team manager of the national table tennis team, so, I do quite a bit of ping-pong when I accompany him to table tennis events.

When did you develop an interest in playing golf?

My dad is passionate about sports. He is a longstanding motorsport and golf journalist. I developed an interest in golf while accompanying him to the annual Kenya Open, so I already had the bug as soon as I stopped crawling.

Jemie Ateka.

What’s more, I come from a family of sports enthusiasts. Uncle Nathan is a former Kenya junior and national chess champion. He has represented Kenya on board one at more than four FIDE Chess Olympiads.

Dad has served in several sporting federations and was the Kenya table tennis team manager at two Olympic qualifiers in Doha, Qatar in 2012 and Khartoum, Sudan in 2016. Growing up in such a setting inspired me to take up sports.

So how did your journey as a golfer begin?

We had gone to watch the Kenya Open at Karen Country Club back in 2016, and I was given an opportunity by pro-Dismas Indiza to play ball on the practice green. From then on, I prodded dad to buy me a golf kit.

The same year, we went to Royal Nairobi to watch a Junior Golf Foundation (JGF) tournament and I was surprised to see how hard the diminutives were hitting the course with the five and six irons.

We then started going to the practice tee, and I’m happy that my swing is now closer to where I want it to be. I have started playing 18 holes with dad and I hope to get a handicap very soon.

How did your parents take it?

Dad is a golfer, so the idea was welcome. Mum is a staunch Chelsea fan, and she kept insisting that I should play football, but then I succumbed to the lure of greens and fairways. They both support me.

Dad always pushes me to achieve new limits on the course. Mum also urges me to work hard in both schoolwork and sports.

Who were some of your inspirations?

Watching Tiger Woods, Jordan Speith and Rory McLoy on the PGA Tour, and back home, the long-hitting Dismas Indiza. The day I saw Indiza sinking in an eagle on Karen’s Par 4 hole 10, I said to myself that I want to do this. I’m glad I can hit the ball harder and over the water barriers.

Do you have a trainer?

Dad is my trainer at the moment. But once in a while at Golf Park, I receive valuable golfing experience from the likes of David Wakhu, who is a top ten pro golfer in the country.

They both impart important playing skills on how to hit the fairways with precision, over and above perfecting my short game.

What are some of your memorable moments on the golf course?

Recently in September, I was invited by the golf captain (Peter Mwaura Kimani) and we played nine holes at Ruiru Sports Club. I loved the par threes and the water barrier on the 18th. Our caddy was really inspirational on the course and taught me when and where to use the drivers and irons.

Are there any challenges you face?

Yes, I am currently golfing with adult clubs, so the weight is a challenge of sorts. I have outgrown my previous golf kit and resorted to playing with my dad’s old clubs. I am hoping to get a junior golf kit soon to enable me to hit the ball even harder.

How do you balance school and the sport?

School comes first. I always ensure I finish my homework early in order to find time to engage in sport. At school, I attend my lessons diligently and remain an astute student of golf after school. I play golf and table tennis during weekends and try to keep fit on weekdays during our school game time.

What else do you do other than golf?

I love swimming because its one sport that stretches your body to the fullest. It keeps me fit and helps me gain the requisite endurance in golf. I also play table tennis and my trainer is the legendary retired international player Anthony Mathenge, who is also a good family friend. Table tennis or ping-pong also enhances fitness, the chops, loops and others.

Would you like to continue playing golf when you grow up?

I have a burning ambition to become a leading pro golfer in the country. It’s good I was introduced to the sport early, but again, I have to go through junior and amateur ranks, so time will tell.

Have you ever made money from playing golf?

At the moment, it’s pure passion. When I become a pro golfer, I will be in a position to earn well.

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