Nothing in this world can take the place of your talent, neither education nor wealth. However persistence and determination alone are omnipotent towards reaching the heights of one’s God given ability.
In this issue of Sunday Sport, we profile Rwanda’s number one amateur golf whiz kid Aphrodis Nyirinkwaya, who has devoted all his life to a sport, perceived by many to be only for the rich and privileged.
Who is Nyirinkwaya?
Born in Nyarutarama, Gasabo District, City of Kigali on January 1, 1991 to Innocent Rurangwa (RIP) and Christine Mukayire, Nyirinkwaya is the last born in the family of eight—six boys and two girls.
Aged 24 years and still single, Nyirinkwaya is the only one among his siblings to play golf while others have been dedicated to academics.
He attended in Gisozi-based Kagugu primary school and completed his primary leaving examinations in 2004 but soon after, he suffered eye defect hence abandoning school for almost five years before resuming at Kampala-based St. Lawrence Secondary School in Rubaga division from 2009-2012.
After three years at St. Lawrence, he deciding to quit school to return to Rwanda and concentrate on developing his talent, “Actually I was very good at academics only that my dream was to play golf since childhood, so I decided to quit school and concentrate on developing my game.”
For Nyirinkwaya, the sport of his life is golf, the rest; he doesn’t want to know, “For me, it’s golf all the time, if am not on the course playing or coaching others, am watching golf videos to develop my game ...laughs….”
However, Rwanda’s top amateur golfer has his eyes set on turning pro, and to follow in the footsteps of his uncle Jean-Baptiste Hakizimana (Rwanda’s number one), Emmanuel Ruterana (two) and Ernest Ndayisenga (three).
Born in Nyarutarama, within a stone throw from the Kigali golf club, Nyirinkwaya picked interest in playing golf at quite at an early age with his childhood friends, “Sometimes I could escape from school to go to the golf club to watch and also play with my friends.”
“It was in 2006 that I started playing golf—it came when I met a Kenyan man called John, who had come to re-design and renovate the golf course and we became friends and that’s who he started training me,” he recalls.
He added, “To me, John is the first person to really inspire me to take up golf, he taught me like his child and even up to date I owe him everything I am as golf player.”
After just one year in the sport, Nyirinkwaya had made great improvement, which led to him being selected on the Kigali golf club amateur team by then the club captain Rajan Tiwari.
“He (Rajan) first put me trials and I passed all of them after which he included on the team so that I can have an opportunity to train regularly with the rest of the players and participate in many tournaments,”
His debut tournament was the 2009 East African Challenge that Rwanda had hosted and finished third, behind Kenya and Uganda.
Since joining the Kigali golf club eight years ago, Nyirinkwaya has gone on to become the top-ranked amateur golfer in Rwanda and has represented the country in a number of regional tournaments.
He says his most memorable competition to-date was the 2011 East African Challenge that was held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
“I was tying with a Ugandan opponent, who had actually undermined me but, with guidance and advice by my coach (Hakizimana), who was my coach then, I played with confidence and I finally won the duel.”
The win earned Rwanda half a point, adding to another half point they had hence moving them ahead of Burundi to finish fourth out of five countries.
“I am living my dream life because I quit school to play golf and be able play for my country, and now I can say, it’s a dream come true,” he noted in an interview for this story.
Individually, Nyirinkwaya has won four tournaments including the 2013 Rwanda Open, three MTN monthly mug tournaments as well recording his best finish (4th) at the 2012 Uganda Open.
There is still a long journey to go but the 24-year old Nyirinkwaya wants to be a professional player and compete in international tournaments.
“I hope to play a qualifier (to the pro level) tournament this year that will be held here (Kigali) during the East African Challenge,” he revealed.
He says, “A lot of people have helped me so much in my career but among them is my uncle (Hakizimana), he has taught me a lot in this sport. Others include; my sponsors; Robert Bapfakurera the chairman of Real Estate Limited and former Member of Parliament Hon. Gideon Kayinamura.”
How others describe him
Ruterana, Rwanda’s number two professional golfer says, “Nyirinkwaya he is a self-motivated guy, well-disciplined and talented, however, for sometimes during the competitions, he tends to be over confident, which has cost him, otherwise he will get better with time.”