Jay Sandhu rose to the summit of Kenya’s amateur golf 17 years ago when he won the Kenya Golf Union, KGU, golfer of the year series. Now aged 40, he is still giving Kenya’s much younger elite amateurs a run for their money.
Yesterday, Jay won the Sigona Bowl competition, the first event in the Kenya Amateur Golf Championship, KAGC, series, after outclassing a field of 105 competitors, some half his age. He returned a gross score of 221 in 54 holes, one shot better than joint runners-up Dennis Maara and John Lejirma. And with this feat, he has set himself a new target for 2022…to win the KAGC series!
To say Jay is immensely talented is an understatement. Here is a man who plays golf just for fun, hardly putting in much work to sharpen his game. In fact, Jay rarely ventures on the golf course more than twice in a week!
“I am getting fitter and stronger. I am feeling the way I was at the age of 25. That’s why I have given myself a new challenge. I want to show these boys I am not a mzee,” said Jay.
In deed Jay is a decorated general in the world of amateur golf. He was crowned the junior champion in 1997 and went on to win the GOTY series thereafter. Jay is among a select few players who have clinched the Kenya Amateur Matchplay and Kenya Amateur Strokeplay championships double, considered to be the most prestigious titles in the KGU calendar. He has played in the Kenya Open thrice. He debuted the tournament as a junior champion in 1997 and followed it with another appearance in 2005 and 2021.
And now, he’s daring to dream again. Buoyed by new-found success on the course in the last two years, Jay is optimistic that he can reclaim the country’s no. 1 amateur status this year. He rediscovered his form in 2020 when he won the Kenya Amateur Strokeplay championship to end a long trophy drought stretching back over 15 years. Since then, he has won a couple of events on the KAGC circuit but has failed to challenge for the series title for failing to participate in the requisite number of events prescribed by KGU. Last year he finished 11th in the series, won by Adel Balala, after only playing in five events, way short of the threshold of 10 tournaments.
“My desire to recapture the no. 1 position is driven by the need to push and motivate the young amateurs. Look, these guys train everyday but when I show up I really give them a game. I assure you that they are very talented so I just want to make them work harder and move their game to the next level. So this year I am going to participate in more events especially out of Nairobi to turn up the heat on them,” Jay said.
A widely travelled golfer who has even played on the USA college golf circuit, Jay warns that the future of amateur golf in Kenya is in danger if the issues around coaching and access to modern training facilities is not addressed. “We do not have a structured programme for nurturing our top amateurs and juniors. KGU must invest more in our elite amateurs by ensuring that they have access to a pool of qualified coaches, modern equipment and structured training regimes. In South Africa, the top 20 amateurs can easily play on the Sunshine Tour and even win. I don’t think the same can be said of our top 20 amateurs. Training or playing golf every day just for the sake of it won’t improve standards. We must move to targeted, highly organized training with clear progressive milestones,” he said.
Optimistic that he will accomplish his 2022 golf dream, Jay plans to turn pro next year and juggle his time between building his business empire and playing on the Safari Tour.