More than a Game

Naomi Wafula - The Trailblazer
Golf Collective The Trailblazer

Naomi Wafula

Naomi Wafula - The Trailblazer

Where most origin stories of young, aspiring professional golfers sound pretty much the same, Naomi Wafula's path to her first start at a Ladies European Tour event is more than just unique.

Most golfers on today's professional circuits, be it on the female or the male side, have had a successful college career with all the spoils a major university in America has to offer. By that norm, Naomi Wafula's story so far sounds like a far cry from what we expect a professional golfer's upbringing to look like. Born into humble circumstances and in one of the least developed areas of Kenya, it is almost unbelievable that the now 25-year-old golf talent came into contact with the sport at an early age.

"I come from a small village in western Kenya known for growing corn, coffee, and tea. Life in Kitale is not easy. My mother is a seamstress and at the time, she couldn't take care of all four children at the same time. That's why my aunt brought me to Nairobi when I was three years old and raised me. She is a golf instructor and decided to pass on her talent in 2005 and founded a golf academy where she trains children from local government schools," Naomi says.
Since the age of six, her aunt took her to the golf course and taught her the basics of the game. Naomi's raw talent became obvious pretty soon and, from the age of 14 onwards, she started to work on her game seriously. "Looking back, it was a blessing that I came to live with my aunt. That's how I found golf, which is now my passion. There was a time in my life when I stood on the streets cooking and selling chips to make ends meet. It wasn't an easy time, but I was still happy because I always dreamed of playing golf professionally and traveling abroad.”

Naomi Wafula: Golf Is Magical

She made one important step toward making that dream a reality when she was able to enter the Magical Kenya Open, a Ladies European Tour Event at Vipingo Ridge, as an amateur. "At Vipingo Ridge, they recognised my talent and offered me a job. Now I can train every day at the PGA Golf Academy on my home course. It is a very special place for me. While training, you can see giraffes, zebras, monkeys, and the ocean. It's magical!"

Naomi's goal now is to secure her Tour card for the Ladies European Tour by competing at the Q-School. Fully realising how hard the competition for one of those coveted playing permits on Europe's premier ladies’ professional tour will be, she follows a rigorous training regime.
"After an hour in the gym, breakfast follows at 6 a.m. Then I answer emails and work in the clubhouse, where I help out in the pro shop or train the kids. I usually spend the rest of the day on the range or golf course and training. I'm currently playing a few local tournaments where I'll be competing against men for the rest of the year."

There just aren't enough women's tournaments to earn enough ranking points to make it to the LET against other female competitors. But Naomi likes the challenge to compete against men. "It's great that we're not divided into categories like men and women because we all have the same goal on the pitch. I like playing with men because I like the competition. When I play against women again, it will be much easier!"
If Naomi succeeds in her quest to the professional ranks, she would be the first female golf pro from her home country to play on the LET regularly. "I also dream of inspiring the younger generation and showing them that it is possible to be successful as a professional golfer, even if you come from a non-golf country like Kenya and have experienced difficult circumstances."

But even if that big dream of playing against other professionals for big trophies and large sums of prize money doesn't materialise, Naomi knows for sure that the game of golf will always be the centre of her life: "If I fail to achieve my goals and do not become a professional golfer, I would like to continue to train and motivate children so that they can achieve their dreams. I want to be a mentor and role model to help them on their path."

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