Give me Ronald Rugumayo over Anthony Kim if we are truthfully trying to grow golf

Game’s latest history-maker was part of big week for the sport in spreading message in Africa

Give me Ronald Rugumayo right now over Anthony Kim, even though no-one really knew anything about the former until Friday whereas the latter, in contrast, is a well-known name in golf around the world.

In case you missed it, 31-year-old Rugumayo is the game’s newest history-maker after becoming the first Ugandan to make the cut in a DP World Tour event, achieving the feat in the Magical Kenya Open at Muthaiga Golf Club in Nairobi. “That is just brilliant,” declared Tony Johnstone, commentating for Sky Sports Golf, as Rugumayo’s birdie putt dropped in the side door at his final hole in the second round to get him through to the weekend in the $2.5 million event.

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The feat produced joyous scenes – a video clip, for example, showed what it meant to the members of Limuru Country Club in Kenya – and, unsurprisingly, the magical moment was widely acclaimed as Rugumayo, a charming chap, suddenly discovered he had an army of new fans around the world. Announcing himself as one, Ryder Cup-winning captain Luke Donald wrote on social media: “Great playing, continued success and thank you for inspiring your fellow Ugandans and many more juniors around the world playing this game we love.”

Uganda's Ronald Rugumayo in action during day four of the Magical Kenya Open at Muthaiga Golf Club in Nairobi. Picture: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images.Uganda's Ronald Rugumayo in action during day four of the Magical Kenya Open at Muthaiga Golf Club in Nairobi. Picture: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images.
Uganda's Ronald Rugumayo in action during day four of the Magical Kenya Open at Muthaiga Golf Club in Nairobi. Picture: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images.

Also commenting on social media site X, three-time DP World Tour winner and 2012 Ryder Cup player Nicolas Colsaerts hit the nail bang on the head with his words of praise. “Who would have thought that some day in our career we would have been taught a lesson about this game but, most importantly, life by a player from Uganda?” wrote the Belgian. “Incredibly inspiring and that is why we play the game. Hats off to you, Ronald.”

There’s been lots of talk in recent years about this, that and the next thing being about “growing golf” but, in too many instances, it’s been utter garbage and lots of people know that because everything isn’t just necessarily about money. Not in this instance, though, because Rugumayo, who’d already earned a place in the record books as the first Ugandan to hit a hole-in-one on the DP World Tour – it came in the same event last year – has not only just inspired a bunch of youngsters to get into golf in his home country but a massive chunk of Africa as well.

“Right now, honestly, it’s not about me as a player,” he admitted in a lovely chat with Iona Stephen during the Sky Sports Golf coverage in Kenya. “It’s not about Uganda, where I come from. It’s about East Africa right now. Everything I am doing, I’m doing it for East Africa.”

He also shared a great story about how he’d actually got into golf in a country where courses are scarce. “Before I was a soccer player but my oldest brother used to play golf and, as a little kid, he won a tournament and he was given a TV and a trophy,” said a smiling Rugumayo as he clearly took being in the spotlight in his stride. “So, when he came home carrying a TV and a trophy, I then gave up playing soccer and started playing golf.”

We have not seen Anthony Kim on the tour for a number of years.We have not seen Anthony Kim on the tour for a number of years.
We have not seen Anthony Kim on the tour for a number of years.

Others will now be doing likewise. “Honestly, it’s more than I can imagine,” he admitted of the impact he’d made. “I always use the hashtag #golfingtoinspire when I am posting on social media and, a few years from now, I would like to see not only more Ugandans but East Africans playing on a big tour. I will really feel great if I see a few players from Uganda or East Africa doing what I am doing and even better than I am doing. That’s my No 1 dream.”

More than ever probably, golf needs moments like this and it was even better that it coincided with the inaugural African Amateur Championship, run by The R&A, being played at Leopard Creek in South Africa as that will also have helped inspire a new generation of players in the countries eligible for it.

Though dominated by South Africans, with Altin Van der Merwe claiming pride of place as he came out on top to secure a spot in the 152nd Open at Royal Troon, the men’s event ended with an Egyptian player in the top ten, three Moroccans in the top 20 and a Kenyan producing a strong effort as well. A trio of Kenyan players also finished in the top ten in a women’s event invitational event held at the same time.

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I challenge anyone to deny all of that hasn’t added up to golf enjoying a bit of feel good factor after the game having seemingly become more about greed than growth for the past couple of years, which brings me round to Kim and reports that he’s set make a dramatic return to the game in this week’s LIV Golf League event in Saudi Arabia.

The American hasn’t played professional in 12 years and, on that basis alone, I get that it will be intriguing to see how he fares if he is indeed ready to make his comeback and that has been heavily rumoured to be the case over the past few weeks, even though he would void an insurance policy from his previous playing days that is reported to be worth $10 million.

Is anyone really being fooled into thinking, though, that the US talisman in a Ryder Cup win at Valhalla in 2008 and three-time PGA Tour champion can even be close to being a position where he can hit the ground running and, if he is prepared to give it a go again as one of the wild cards introduced for the new LIV season, then you can rest assured that he’s only doing so because he’s been offered a sackful of cash.

As I said at the start, give me Ronald Rugumayo if we are truthfully trying to grow this great game around the world.

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