AS CADDIE master at the Kigali Golf Club, Patrick Uwumukiza’s brief is well cut out for him: taking charge of all the Golf Club’s other caddies—72 in total. This entails selecting the best caddies for clients in the run-up to upcoming engagements, besides acting as middleman in issues between the caddies and their clients.
His work is not only supervisory though. He is still an active golf caddie, carrying the bag for some of the most senior golfers in the land. Even more, Uwumukiza is a golfer in his own right, though still in the ranks of amateurs.
Whenever there is a major tournament, his bosses relieve him of his other duties to allow him grow in his game. “Of course, one can’t be a good caddie if they don’t play the game. So, in a way, going into games help me improve my skills both as a player and as a caddie,” he says.
For three years running, he has been competing in the annual Rwanda Open Golf Tournament, and for this year, he emerged second runner-up. Similarly, he won his first attempt in 2011 and emerged runner up in 2012.
Started as a joke
Uwumukiza’s journey into the world of golf was rather accidental. In the year 2000, as a jobless youth, and while roaming aimlessly around the King Faisal Hospital complex, he spotted a gentleman teeing away from the nearby course. He sat down to watch as the man did his magic and, realising he had no caddie boy in sight, approached the golfer with a job request.
His would-be employer expressed interest in giving him a job, but for one problem: Uwumukiza did not know a thing about the game of golf.
That would-be employer was Davis Kashaka, a prominent golfer. But other than turn the young man away, he gave him an appointment for next day, at the Golf Course.
“When I came here (golf course), I was introduced to a gentleman called Frattel Rubangura, who was the master caddie at the time. I remember him asking me too many questions, most of which I could not answer. He even asked me if I knew how to carry a golf bag, and I didn’t!” he recalls.
He was then referred to other senior caddies for apprenticeship. For the next three months, Uwumukiza learnt about the game of golf itself, about the clubs, about the course, and, of course, the rules.
“I was practising both the rules and the game, because you can’t be a caddie without being a player.”
After three months of training, he was examined together with twenty six fellow caddies, a competition from which he emerged among the best four. So besides his caddie work, which was dearer to him because it is his sole source of livelihood to this day, he took a day off from each week to improve his game as a player.
Carrying the bag
“Carrying the caddie bag is not easy,” he starts, “because each bag contains all the golfing clubs –fourteen in total. These all weigh about 4kgs.” Not only is a caddie’s work challenging in his opinion, it is paramount for a game of golf. “A caddie is responsible for a good game or a bad game. If a caddie is well versed with all the rules of the game, he will give a good performance. A caddie is a partner to the player, because you can’t carry your own bag while playing a game of golf.” He adds that “a good caddie must perfect all the rules of the game, and must be a good player himself, because there is no such thing as a caddie who can’t play.”
The caddie bag, he says, contains three categories of equipment; the wooden, iron, and patta.
He is all praises for the game, which he credits for boosting his physical and mental health, besides improving his confidence.
However, he is bitter at the poor perceptions people still hold about the game, attributing it to the rich. “We need to convince more Rwandans to take to golf, because most people here still claim that it is a rich man’s game, but this is not true, otherwise I would not be playing the game today.”
Perhaps as a way of taking a lead on this wish, he has of late started to offer basic golf lessons and drills to the children of some of the members of Kigali Golf Club, although in future he hopes to extend his helping hand to the wider public.
Lastly, and at a personal level, he wants to “practice a little more and become a professional golfer.