Former Gambian President, Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, carried a passion for playing and promoting golf, both during his time in the State House and beyond it.
Jawara gave hope to Gambian golfers with an in-to-out swing, which was self-taught. His first caddie, Lamin Sonko, told The Chronicle that Jawara used his quick wit, as well as his ability on the golf course, to become a gallery favorite for many years at the Fajara Golf Course.
A caddie is a person who carries a player’s clubs and bag and provides other assistance during a match. “He was always my hero growing up and watching him play,” Sonko told The Chronicle. “Being his first caddie, Jawara inspired me to take up golf seriously. He is the first to introduce a caddie competition in The Gambia and also raised the caddie fee from 12 bututs to 5 dalasi. Sir Dawda has really changed the phase of Gambian golf, his legacy at the Fajara Golf Course will forever live.”
Not only did Jawara mentored and sponsored Gambia’s first batch of golf professionals in the 70’s, but he was an ardent golf fan who understood the sport’s significant impact on society. He mentored and sponsored Gambia’s first professional golfer, Bakary Samateh, who is now based in Senegal.
Jawara, who led The Gambia to independence in 1965, died in August 2019 at the age of 95.
Pa Jatta used to carry Jawara’s bag when he played golf at Fajara. He told The Chronicle that the late leader loved and promoted the game of golf more than any African leader. “I’ve not seen or heard of any other African president whose love for golf matched that of Sir Dawda,” Jatta said. “Sir Dawda has given me knowledge about the game and I will be forever grateful to him. He has inspired a generation of Gambian golfers who are now doing great in and outside of the country.”
Alhagie Drammeh, a Gambian professional golfer played with Sir Dawda several times at the Fajara Golf Course. His friendship with the former president dates back decades and he described Jawara as “an extraordinarily consequential president” of The Gambia, particularly in the arena of sports. “He was so passionate about golf. I used to play with him two to three times in a week at State House where there was a nine-hole course. Each time he won, he would just jump into jubilation. He just loved playing golf and he spent his resources to help Gambian golf and golfers develop.”
However, in March this year, the Fajara Golf Club will collaborate with the late president’s family to stage a ‘Sir Dawda Memorial Golf Championship’ in honor of his efforts in promoting and inspiring a generation of Gambian golfers.