Something special is brewing in Burundi. And to kill your imaginations early it’s not a Heineken, Amstel, Brarudi or even Skol beer. It is right on the golf nine-hole Bujumbura Golf Club (BGC) course. There are hordes of youngsters that one will always find on the course learning the ABC of the game under the wing of the club’s professional Kenyan John Kisia.
Each of them is a potential star for the future but one of them stands out from the crowd. Abdul Jabar Suleiman is very special. Jabar’s family migrated from Democratic Republic of Congo because of the eternal civil wars and settled in Bujumbura in 2009.
Although there is no golfing history in his family, the 10-year-old youngster persuaded his parents to let him mix with the elite members of Bujumbura Golf Club (BGC). “I came to the golf club once with a friend who used to caddy for the other players and I liked how the guys were hitting the balls and I thought I could do the same,” starts the 28-handicapper who first held a club in 2010.
“I asked my parents (Mwali Masta and Kambran Mzee) to let me start going to the golf club. They talked to Koudra (editor; a national team golfer for Bujumbura) to watch me and teach me the basics. I owe him (Koudra Nahimana) because he is the man who taught me and still does.”
The youngster comes from a family of eight children; five boys and three girls and stays with his parents in Buyenzi – a small village on the outskirts of the Burundian capital, Bujumbura.
Unlike other golfing stars of the East Africa region, ever-smiling Jabar has never caddied for anyone. All he does is play. And he is no rabbit with a golf club in his hands. The Primary Six pupil has had one too many a famous swing with Burundi Vice-president Pierre Nkurunziza, Burundi property mogul Calixte Mutabazi and BGC president Ken Lukongodo.
When Jabar speaks, the glow on his face is forgivable. And it’s not because he finished second runner-up in the men’s Group C after impressively shooting 105, 96, 96 for a gross aggregate of 297 (213 nett) over three rounds at the Burundi Open. Everything has apparently happened so fast for him and he is ever grateful.
“I thank the Vice-president Monsieur Pierre who pays my membership, Mzee Calixte for all the help including school fees, member Elfsu Taaro who gives me clubs as well as some money whenever I beat him. There also many people who always support me and even give me advice on how to behave and avoid getting my feet off the ground,” said Jabar, flanked by younger brother Abibu Suleiman Abou, who also plays in the club’s Junior Programme run by Kisia and Koudra.
Jabar’s favourite lady golfer is the much-admired Sandra Kangana, who he thanks for helping him learn the dos and don’ts while at the golf club. “It’s important to always remain humble and don’t be seen like a person who makes members uncomfortable,” she (Kangana) always tells me.
“And it’s through constant chats with her that I have also managed to control my temper. I easily get angry whenever I play bad like in May when I shot 22 nett. But I don’t show because it’s my character. Sandra told me to keep calm because I have time on my side and my golf will improve as time goes on.”
Such is his calm demeanor; Jabar doesn’t want to shoot too high into the skies when asked about his future. “I am not thinking about turning professional. My dream is to play for the national team in Burundi. “I fear no one and I can play on any course,” says the youngster who wants to be able to support his mum’s sewing business and help his dad set up an electrical workshop.
Aside golf, Jabar harbours dreams of playing semi-professional football at either Vital’O F.C or Atlético Olympic F.C in Burundi.
Full Name: Abdul Jabal Suleiman
Resides: Uvira, Buyenzi – Bujumbura
Education: P.6 at Ecole Primaire de Lumiere de Bwiza
Golf career: Started in 2010
Role model: Kudra Nahimana
Favourite golfer: John Kisia
Driving range: 170 yards
Fairway percentage: 80
Languages: French, Swahili & some English
Favourite TV programmes: Golf & wrestling
Biggest prize: 5,000 Franc & Nokia phone
WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT ABDUL JABAR
Ken Lukongodo – President Bujumbura Golf Club: “Abdul can play and he has shown the hunger that he wants to play for the Burundi national team.”
Dismas Indiza – Top Kenya professional: “I have told the young man to be patient. Sponsorship will come. All he must do now is play and enjoy.”
John Kisia – Burundi national team coach: “I will not be ashamed to pick him on the team. We are fast tracking him and don’t be shocked to see him in Kampala for the East African Challenge Trophy.”
Vincent ‘Araali’ Byamukama – Ugandan professional: “This boy is big fortune. I would go hungry and ensure he has all he wants. Burundi are lucky have one kind of a gem.”
Willy Deus Kitata – Top Ugandan amateur star: “I watched him play and I couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing. He is a perfect testament that everyone must start playing the game early.”
Koudra Nahimana – Top Burundi amateur star: “These are the players that the club must look after. Many of us have been on the stage for so long. Abdul is like my young brother and I only wish him the best. He can make this country very proud.”