A few weeks ago and soon after the 2019 Tannahill Shield, I wrote an open letter, in this column, to the organisers of Kenya’s biggest amateur club team championship, the Royal Nairobi Golf Club. Among the issues I raised was the possibility of inviting some international teams and a change in the format. I also boldly, and perhaps unwisely (nothing new there) suggested that perhaps the Mombasa Golf Club should lose their status as the ‘sisters’ of the hosts Royal and by so doing lose the immunity they enjoy from relegation.
For my trouble, I got a few choice remarks from friends and foes alike from Mombasa, many claiming I should steer clear of traditions I didn’t understand. Others were not so kind. One of the comments was from the current chairman of the Mombasa Golf Club, Symon Wambugu, a man I have known for many years and with whom we served together as captains over 15 years ago.
Wambugu took me through the history that binds Kenya’s oldest golf clubs – Royal and Mombasa – and reminded me that Mombasa, or the Front Course as it is fondly referred to, would soon be hosting the 100th Barry Cup – another prestigious amateur event that was first played in 1913. The trophy was donated by Percy Barry, a golfer of repute who won the first edition of the same event.
“Barry was a founder member of our club in 1911; he served as golf captain for four years and also served in various positions at the board. He got the ball rolling. The Barry Cup is now competed for in the Coast Open Championship, a 36-hole two-day competition played by some of the very best amateurs in the region,” Wambugu said. “The late John Mucheru claimed the Barry Cup a record eight times in 1975, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1988, 1989 and 1991.” In 1990 and 1992, Mucheru lost the battle to his greatest rival, the late David Wandua.
The 100th Coast Open, or Barry Cup as it is referred to, will be held from July 17 to 18 this year. The event was not played from 1940 to 1945 due to the World War.
“This is a historic staging of the Coast Open and as members of the Mombasa Golf Club we are proud to be standing in this moment,” Wambugu said. “However we do need sponsors to step forward to assist us to put on a good show; preparing our golf course is an expensive affair, as you know we are right next to the ocean and although that gives us great views, it also poses a challenge to our green-keeping efforts.”
RA Davidson was the first Coast golfer to win the Barry Cup in 1967 whilst Musa Odada was the second in 2004. Daniel Nduva was the champion in 2013 and Mathew Wahome was victorious in 2014 and 2015. Wahome became the youngest winner of the Barry Cup in 2014 at the age of 16 setting a tournament record of 1-under par. Hopefully the 100th edition of the Barry Cup will have a worthy winner and a new low score.
Away from Mombasa and the Barry Cup, Tiger Woods will be in action this weekend (I hope) at the PGA Championship being held at the Bethpage Black Course in New York. This public golf course was launched in 1936 – 25 years after the Mombasa Front Course – and this will be the 101st edition of the PGA Championship – just one year older than the Barry Cup. A lot of similarities, a lot of differences.
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