Against all odds, deaf golfer defeats Royal Nairobi’s Jay Sandhu 3, 2
As Vet Lab Sports Club hosted the 97th Kenya Amateur Match Play Championship, Isaac Makokha was the last man standing in a field of 108 amateur golfers, including 19 juniors, who teed off in the eight-round competition on Thursday morning.
Against all odds, the deaf golfer defeated Royal Nairobi’s Jay Sandhu 3 and 2 in the final played on Sunday.
The two had booked tickets to the final where they were fighting it off for a ticket to next year’s Magical Kenya Open with similar wins.
Makokha was up against Njoroge Kibugu while Sandhu faced off with John Lejirma in the 36-hole semi final played on Saturday.
A small crowd that had followed Makokha’s journey throughout the four-day competition held their breath at hole 16 as the 29-year-old made the decider putt on the green, with his competitor ready to give him a congratulatory embrace.
Song and dance broke with the golfer carried shoulder-high from the green to the club house where the celebration continued.
“This is just the beginning of my journey to greatness. I now have a ticket to the Kenya Open and I will not be featuring in that competition to try and win. I am going for the top position.
I feel ready to conquer on such a level. On Sunday morning I was nervous and almost cried before teeing off.
However, I have had immense support and advice from my family and friends who have kept encouraging me to keep going for the title,” an elated Makokha, through his translator Winnie Adoyo, said.
He continued, “When I learnt that the club would be hosting this year’s competition, I began preparing.
I would have two training sessions daily at my home course. I also had gym sessions at the club to work on my fitness.
I have my brother, pro golfer Jeff Kubwa, who has helped me prepare alongside other players like Nelson Simwa and Edwin Mudanya.
They were there for me in the competition too.
They kept advising me to take water and stay calm. Additionally, prior to the match play, I took part in a Betika-sponsored tournament alongside some pros and did well.
That gave me confidence for this competition. I give it to Sandhu for the great competition.
He is not an easy player and he gave me a good run and that pushed me to play better.”
With his Kenya Open ticket already safe, Makokha, who is playing off handicap one, says he will use the upcoming Stroke Play set to be hosted at Royal Nairobi Club next month as part of his preparation for Kenya Open.
“I am exhausted after eight rounds of golf, playing 36 holes every day while carding for myself.
I will rest for now before returning to the course with Kenya Open in mind.
I am open to playing in any upcoming competitions including the stroke play and Safari Tour as part of my preparations,” added Makokha who was awarded a full membership at Vetlab for his weekend exploits.
In the final, Sandhu picked the first point in hole one but Makokha played a steady three holes to lead by two points after the fourth hole.
The duo halved hole five before Makokha won in hole six to go three points up.
The next hole was tied with Sandhu winning holes eight and nine to reduce Makokha’s lead to one as they headed to the back nine of the first round.
Makokha was on a roll in the back nine as he won in holes 12, 14, 15 and 17 to go five up before Sandhu took hole 18 to reduce the lead to four up.
A win in hole one (19) in the second round put Makokha back to a five-point lead but Sandhu cut it to a three-point difference, after 22 holes, with wins on hole three and four.
Several poor shots made it impossible for Sandhu to recover as the two halved hole 16 (34) for Makokha to take the win.