Five More Countries On Board for Africa Jacket Champs

The Windhoek Lager Africa Jacket Golf Championship was launched for the second year in Windhoek on Wednesday with the number of participating countries expected to grow to ten for this year’s edition.

This was said by Ian Stevenson of Windhoek Lager, who said they hoped to finalise negotiations with five more countries next week.

“Although I cannot officially confirm that the following countries will definitely participate, all indications are that Kenya, Seychelles, Swaziland, Tanzania and Uganda will sign on next week. These are all countries where Windhoek Lager has distribution channels and this will then bring the participating countries to 10 for this year’s championship,” he said.

Stevenson said the inaugural championship, which was contested by amateur golfers from Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana was a major success. He said it had also succeeded in its aim of increasing the number of players in the region.

“The objective of the Windhoek Lager Africa Jacket Golf Championship was to drive more players to participate in existing golf competitions in each country and by virtue of the fact that in some of these competitions, the local unions had to place a cut off on the number of entries, this objective was truly realised,” he said.

According to the format of the competition, golfers from the competing countries may enter four pre-determined events on their local golfing calendars. The golfers’ top three results are then taken into account to determine each country’s winners in A, B and C Divisions. The winners then compete in the final championship in Namibia, where the category winners receive trophies while the overall winner receives a floating trophy and the African green jacket.

The inaugural event was won by Mwalikwa Sondashi of Zambia, while Namibia’s Stefanus van der Merwe won the C Division. This year’s event will kick off next month while the final will be held at the Windhoek Country Club in June 2015.

Hugh Mortimer, the general manager of the Windhoek Golf and Country Club said the interest in participation in the tournament was extraordinary while enquiries from African countries were overwhelming.

“From a golfing perspective from both the Namibia Amateur Golf Union and the African Golf Federation, we can only thank Namibia Breweries and especially Ian Stevenson for the initiative. This tournament will without doubt become a major amateur tournament on the African golf calendar similar to the existing All Africa and Zone Six tournaments,” he said.

“The development of golf from grassroots level to professional golf is a critical focus for all golfing nations in the world. This is exactly why the Windhoek Lager Africa Jacket Tournament was conceptualised, to develop golf for all,” he added.

Mortimer said that although the popularity of golf had increased, due to more TV coverage, the number of players had actually decreased.

“In fact, the numbers are reducing rather disappointingly. This is mainly due to the cost, the availability of facilities and the tremendous growth in other sports, in particular cycling. This is not a phenomena only in Africa, but throughout the world. Reduced numbers are being reported from everywhere including Europe and America. It is with this in mind that we as the administrators need to encourage, through coaching and making facilities available, our learners and juniors to take a positive interest in the sport,” he said.

The vice chairperson of the Namibia Sport Commission Amos Shiyuka congratulated the organisers, saying he was surprised by the competition’s growth.

“When we launched this competition last year I wasn’t convinced that it would take off as it did – golf is an expensive sport and not all can participate, so development has been a bit slow in Namibia and the rest of the world. But to my surprise, today we are announcing five new countries which is very encouraging. I’m sure this will become one of the most prestigious events in Africa,” he said.

Shiyuka said that the development of the game amongst previously disaantaged groups was essential to ensure its growth.

“As we’ve heard, the numbers are decreasing, so we must look at development and scouting of new talent. We can’t get the same athletes from the same groups – we need to go out and produce younger, new golf champions out there to represent us,” he said.

Source : The Namibian