Many years back, in a land far away, there was a nine-hole golf course at the Duke of York School. Founded in 1949, the school was initially reserved for white students only and the ‘‘masters’’ were also white.
To keep the white folk busy in their spare time, a shooting range, horse-riding facility, cricket oval and a nine-hole golf course were developed in the 1960s.
After independence, the Duke of York admitted some African and Asian students and in 1969 the school was renamed Lenana School.
In the early 1990s the well-kept nine-hole golf course was slowly neglected and eventually reverted to nature, good only for grazing school cattle.
In the following decades any semblance of a golf course disappeared; the once beautiful course remaining only in the memories of students and masters from years past.
Then in 2004/5 the Junior Golf Foundation (JGF), under the leadership of Vishy Talwar, embarked on a project to reclaim the course.
Through a grant from the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and various fund raising efforts locally, the JGF raised over Sh5m to re-build the course.
The fairways were mowed, greens planted and bunkers positioned, but soon the funds dried up and many millions later, nature once more swallowed the Lenana course before it could see the light of day.
Over the years, and as recently as March 2014 at the Royal Nairobi Golf Club, the Laibon Society — the Lenana Old Boys Association — continued to hold fund raising events for rebuilding the golf course.
In August 2016, a team of government departments was established to restore the course.
This team includes PSs Kamau Thugge, Peter Kirimi, Belio Kipsang, Victor Kyalo, John Musonik, Nduati Mwangi, Fred Sigor and Lillian Mbogo-Omollo.
Each of the departments was invited based on the dockets they managed: from infrastructure, to IT to youth, water, treasury, sports and education.
Another team of technocrats, golf officials and private sector players were also invited and golfer Philip Ochola was appointed to co-ordinate the project.
This latest initiative is part of the bigger Ministry of Education agenda to create centres of excellence across various regions.
So, for example, Nairobi School was identified to host a ‘‘drama’’ centre of excellence. It was therefore natural that Lenana plays host to the golf centre excellence.
The drive to revive the course is noble and must be supported; unless Kenyan children start playing golf early on in life, the quality of our elite amateur golfers, and by extension the professionals, will remain sub-standard.
The Lenana project can kick-start junior golf talent identification and nurturing, which can produce Kenya’s future golfing crop.
Will the golf course at Lenana be open to the public? And to other students? Will the Kenya Golf Union scout for talented young golfers across the country and have them transferred to Lenana?
That would be great, wouldn’t it? The initiative to restore the Lenana course has a capital expenditure of about Sh111 million with an annual operating expenditure of Sh6 million.