Golfer on course to change family fortune

Wednesday, August 24th, 2022 01:16 | By
Naomi Angella Wafula with her mother, Rose Nanjala Titus. PD/COURTESY

Looking back, Rose Nanjala Titus is amazed at how far her last born daughter, Naomi Angella Wafula, has come, thanks to golf.  At 24 years, Naomi is one of the top-ranked amateur golfers in the country.

She recalls how as a single mother, it was challenging raising her four children in Kitale, something that forced her to let Naomi live with her aunt in Nairobi. 

“It was a tough choice for me to make. Naomi was just three years then. Being unable to pay school fees for my children made me take her to my sister, Rose Naliaka, in Nairobi,” she narrates. 

While it was tough being far from her mother at a young age, it was in Nairobi that Naomi’s interest in golf began at the age of six. 

Her aunt was the first female professional golfer in the country who has represented the country at various global events. She also started a foundation, the Rose Naliaka Foundation, which teaches golf to girls from slums and rural areas, mentoring and training them to be professionals.

“My sister has won many awards in golf. I’m always grateful to her for teaching my daughter and mentoring her at such a young age,” says Rose. 

Since she was six, Naomi would practice golf with her aunt every Sunday. This consistency paid off as she joined national team; Kenya Ladies Golf Union at a young age. Since then, Naomi has represented the country a number of times. She has also won a couple of awards, her most memorable being the 2011 SOYA Award, the All Africa Challenge (Junior) Trophy (AACT) that she won in Botswana in 2012, as well as the 2013 Junior Golf Foundation (JGF) where she became the Top Girl of the Year.  

“I’m proud of what she has managed to achieve at such a young age. When she was a junior, she won many titles in the Kenya Ladies Golf Union tournaments as well,” says Rose. 

Breaking barriers 

While she went through normal schooling for her primary school education, Naomi had to be home schooled during her secondary school years. 

“She was able to adjust quickly and had time to practice, play tournaments and go to school at the same time. She has also had well-wishers who have supported me in paying her school fees and membership for golf and tournaments and I’m always grateful to them,” she explains. 

In 2016, Naomi left Nairobi for Kitale and started a small business. “She started a fast food restaurant and I supported her fully. Her desire was to one day start a hotel for me,” Rose says.

Though Naomi’s grandmother wasn’t happy about it as she wanted her to continue playing golf, the soft spoken young golfer continued with her business for three years until 2019, when she started playing golf at the Safari Tour, thanks to betting company, Betlion who supported her journey. In 2020, Naomi became the first woman to make the cut at the Safari Tour in Sigona, which was a men’s golf event and last year, she was awarded Lady Golfer of the Year by Kenya Ladies Golf Union. 

These wins opened the door for her to participate at the Ladies European Tour this year, which took place at Vipingo Ridge. Her participation made Vipingo Ridge recognise her and support her through her journey.  Together with Ucom (a company that supports athletes and artists with their mid and long term career planning and accompanying them to attain their goal) and the support from Vipingo Ridge, this year Naomi played golf in Germany at the Amundi German Masters. 

Conquring greater competitions 

“It was the first time that a Kenyan was playing the Ladies European Tour (LET) outside of Kenya. The event gave her an opportunity to play and gain so much experience from professionals and this has improved her game significantly both mentally and physically,” says her mother. 

Upon her return, Naomi has continued to push herself to greater heights and has just won the Ladies Coast Open. She is looking forward to playing in the next tournaments and is putting on the required practice to be better in the game. 

Currently, her training programmes includes going to the gym five days a week and playing in some of the best golf courses in the country. She also utilises launch monitors and other golf technology during some of her coaching sessions with her mentor Saleem Haji at the PGA Academy in Vipingo Ridge. 

“Her future plans are to turn pro and play professional events and earn a living through golf. She will be practicing a lot and is grateful for the experience and desires to continue sharpening her skills to be the best in the game,” says Rose.

Rose advises parents to nurture their children’s talent and to never discourage them for they never know where this would take them.

“Encourage your children to continue working on their talents and give them the tools that they need to do it. Be open minded in the process and never shy away from asking for assistance if you need it,” she says. 

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