Nawanga still going strong in golf
By Michael Uugwanga
NAMIBIA’s first ever professional black golfer, Joe Nawanga said he is still very much active in golf despite the financial difficulties that continue to plague his golf career.
His last tour was in 2019 at the Sunshine tour Vodacom open in Selborne, South Africa, where he finished with 156 points.
Besides that tour, Nawanga has been at other five tours including the Sun Wild Coast Sun Challenge at Mzamba Beach, Vodacom Origins (Stellenbosch), Vodacom Origins (Humewood), Kenya Commercial Bank Karen Masters (Kenya) and Limpopo tour (South Africa).
Nawanga turned professional in 2001 after winning 17 amateur tournaments including two Namibian Open tournaments.
It is no secret that Nawanga has been self funding when going on tour to represent the country as an ambassador, however this has not discouraged him from continuing to showcasing his golfing skills that have earned him the nickname ‘Tiger Woods of Namibia’.
Woods is a golf legend who has won 15 professional major golf championships.
Nawanga might not be in the same bracket as Woods, however his achievement as a professional will not go unnoticed, and judging from the lack of funding athletes in the country are faced when compared to those in the developed world.
Since turning professional, Nawanga has collected N$110 632.55 in total prize money on tour.
He has 17 eagles, 488 birdies and an impressive average of 2.87 birdies per game, while his stroke average is 74.09 and he has made four cuts during his professional career.
Nawanga is also a golf instructor at the Windhoek golf and country club.
“I am still an active touring professional (golfer) and because of Covid-19 I had to balance the year with teaching and touring, and it is not easy when you try to play out from your own pocket as it becomes more challenging. So far I’m still grinding this year and our tour in Johannesburg will resume in September this year. Currently I do not have any plans to travel outside until September,” said Nawanga.
Despite knowingly that golf in the country is mostly seen as a hobby and not a career due to lack of availability of funds from both Government and the corporate world, Nawanga said he has no regret of choosing golf as a career, saying that he is enjoying every moment as a golfer.
Nawanga was introduced to golf by a former classmate Denis Haimbondi at the Rossmund golf course in Swakopmund, at the time when Nawanga used to play football in the dusty streets of Mondesa.
Haimbondi was a former national team golf player and only played amateur golf and ranked 11 in the Order of Merit in the country.
Nawanga was born at Liyale village in Oniipa constituency in Oshikoto Region and moved to Swakopmund at the tender age of three with his mother.
Nawanga’s first amateur tournament was the Rossmund Open in 1997. Next was winning the Windhoek Open the following year, and that is when he became a hot topic in the Namibian golfing fraternity as the first black golfer to win these prestigious tournaments back to back following the successes of Hans Naobeb (Walvis Bay Open) and Viv Heibeb (Gold Cup).
In 1998, he received national colours and topped the amateur ranking as the number 1 golfer in the country.
“I was footballer first and I used to play street football. I was introduced to the game of golf at a very tender age. I had schoolmates that knew the game and always spoke about it. A close friend and classmate, Denis (Haimbodi), decided one day to invite me to the (Rossmund) golf course to caddy with the hope that I would develop interest in the game and join the fun, and to make pocket money. I was 13 years at the time,” recalled Nawanga, who joined the golf club in 1994 .
His achievements as a professional golfer include amongst others his 7th position in the Botswana Open in 2005, top 17th in the Namibian Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) before he made several cuts on the Sunshine Tour.
In 2005, he finished 104th, 2007 119th, 2008 121st on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit and in 2009, he scooped two awards, Gijima AST Pro-AM in Nelspruit, SA and the Kings Cup Tournament in Swaziland.