He is among the top golfers in the country and golf observers have tipped him to go all the way to the top. Meet 16-year- old Celestin Nsanzuwera, who despite his age is ranked third in the golf amateur category.
The highly talented youngster is set to move to United States of America next year for a fully sponsored golf scholarship by Denver-based Metagolf Learning Center, who are partners with Kigali Golf Club.
This week, Saturday Sport’s Geoffrey Asiimwe caught up with Nsanzuwera and he narrated his journey, love and passion for golf.
Born on May 5, 2000 in Kacyiru sector, Gasabo District in the City of Kigali to Elias Gahoranyi and Epiphania Mukobwajana, Nsanzuwera is the last born in the family of five—two boys and three girls.
Nsanzuwera is currently ranked number three in the amateurs’ category two places behind his elder brother Aloys Nsabimana (No.1) with Leonard Nkurunziza at number two.
The soft-spoken Nsanzuwera says that he models his game on that of American professional golfer on the PGA Tour Jordan Spieth, a former world number one and a two-time major winner and the 2015 FedEx Cup champion.
“I like his style of play and I have watched him play since I began learning to play golf, he is actually my inspiration,” the teenage sensation told Saturday Sport in an interview.
Nsanzuwera attended Kacyiru primary school before joining Rugando Secondary School also based in Kacyiru in 2015 for secondary education. He is currently in senior two and his dream is a career in mechanical engineering.
Apart from golf, which he says is his first sport; Nsanzuwera also likes football and is a fan of English Premier League side, Arsenal.
Early days and playing career
Being born practically near the golf course (Kigali Golf Course), Nsanzuwera easily picked interest in the sport and was particularly inspired by his elder brother Nsabimana, who had already began to play the game.
“I grew up near the golf course and from a young age, I was always curious to learn how to play the game, that is how I started picking interest and eventually fell in love with it,” he explains.
In 2009, Kigali Golf Club, championed by the then club captain Luis Kamanzi (now the club president) introduced an academy aimed at teaching young children golf free of charge. Nsanzuwera, who by then aged just nine years, was among the benefactors of that project, and he says he is grateful to the club for giving them a chance.
“I was among the first children that were selected and we were taught by instructors; Emmanuel Ruterana and Patrick Umukiza, how to play,” he narrates.
He noted that, “We all started from zero because, apart from the passion we had for the game, for many of us, it was the first time to even touch a driver.”
Nsanzuwera spent five years in the golf academy until the end of 2014 when it ceased to exist, however; he was given membership by the golf club in 2015.
“When I became a member of Kigali golf club, I was very excited because I was not really expecting it but it motivated me to work even harder. It was a dream come true to be able to compete in big tournaments like Rwanda Open and East African Challenge,” he revealed.
Last year, Nsanzuwera made his debut in Rwanda Open finishing in the eighth place as well as the East African Challenge where Rwanda finished in the third place, behind Uganda and Kenya.
This year, the youngster finished in third place but for East African Golf Challenge, hosted in Ethiopia, it was a year to forget for Rwanda, who finished in the fifth place.
However, on the local scene, he has won several tournaments, among them, the 2015 and 2016 MTN Golf Open, 2016 Liberation Day tournament, 2016 Club House competition and 2016 Korean competition.
Best and worst moments
“My best moment as I said earlier was in 2015 when I became a full member of the Kigali Golf Club and debuting in Rwanda Open while my worst moment was during the East Africa Golf Challenge in Ethiopia, where we had a very poor campaign yet our target was to win the competition.”
Future plans and ambitions
He says, “I think I am on the right track in my career and I want to turn professional before I turn 20 years. My dream is to compete in one of the PGA tours.”
“My sincere appreciation goes to my academy coaches Ruterana and Umukiza because I believe without them, I would not be here giving you this interview. I also thank Kamanzi because the academy that taught me everything I know about golf was his initiative.”
About golf in Rwanda
Golf is one of the least popular sports in Rwanda, which can largely be attributed to the conservative mindset of the society, who fallaciously consider the sport to be a preserve for the rich.
And it’s for that reason that Rwanda’s record even on the regional level remains just that. The country has only two golf courses, including the 18-hole Kigali course in Nyarutarama and 9-hole Muhazi Golf Course in Rwamagana, Eastern Province.
However, since 2005 when the Rwanda Golf Union was incorporated into the East African Golf Federation, several initiatives have been undertaken to move the sport to the next level and so far, the future looks a little brighter.
Among those initiatives include; building of a state-of-the- art golf club. The multi-million-dollar facility ‘Kigali Golf Country Club’ is now in final stages of completion and one of its core missions is to make golf more accessible to all Rwandans.
Rwanda currently has five professional golfers that include; Jean Baptiste Hakizima (No.1) and Emmanuel Ruterana (2), both currently based in the United States of America while Ernest Ndayisenga (3), Olivier Munyaneza (4) and Jules Mutesa Dusabe (5) are based at home.