By Cherno Omar Bobb
The Fajara Golf Course was on Sunday renamed Sir Dawda Jawara – Fajara Club Golf Course at a colorful ceremony attended by the Vice President Dr. Isatou Touray, senior government officials, Fajara Club members, golfers, the late Sir Dawda’s family members, among others.
The event held at the golf course in Fajara coincided with the late President’s 97th birthday anniversary.
The unveiling of a memorial bust of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara also witnessed a memorial golf tournament for caddies, professional golfers and amateurs with prizes awarded to deserving winners.
Dawda Jawara junior, son of the late Sir Dawda in his remarks described the day as an extraordinary occasion for him on multiple grounds. He said it was also very appropriate to use the symbolic day, (16th of May 2021), the day in which his father was born 97 years ago at Barajaly in the Niani District, to honour his life.
Mr. Jawara congratulated the Fajara Club for choosing to rename the golf course after his father, and for the commissioning of his bust.
“The Jawara family is indeed grateful to the various ministries, departments and agencies of the Barrow administration, that were instrumental in the approval process of renaming the course in honour of my late father,” he stated.
He highlighted that the gestures to name his father after several places are the fruits of the legacy of his respect for human rights and the dignity of the person, and the importance he always attached to the respect for the rule of law. He further said that the gesture will ensure that “future generations remember our founding fathers, enabling us to learn from their values, sacrifices and successes, for a better Gambia, better Africa and better world.”
Mr. Jawara thanked President Barrow, through Vice President Touray, for accepting to be the Chief Guest of Honour for the ceremony. He also thanked the Fajara Club for initiating and embarking on the laudable project, at a time when most institutions in the Gambia and around the world were finding it almost impossible to operate as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Fajara Club is the oldest such sporting and leisure club in the Gambia and owns the only 18-hole golf course in the country. Established in the 1950s as the Bathurst Cub, it was moved to Fajara and an 18-hole golf course was established in 1971, with the encouragement and blessings of Sir Dawda as the first president.
Sir Dawda, the Club’s first chief patron, died peacefully aged 95 at his home in Fajara, on Tuesday 27 August 2019. His personal contribution and that of his government to the game of golf in the Gambia is unparalleled. He was a keen golfer and used to compete regularly in the Hassan II Golf Trophy in Rabat, Morocco.
In his autobiography KAIRABA, Sir Dawda stated that he was introduced to the game of golf in 1962, thanks to the persistence of J P Bray, the last British holder of the post of superintendent of the then Gambia Police Force, also known as the Gambia Constabulary.
He was a trained veterinary surgeon and Gambian politician, who served as the first Prime Minister from 1965 to 1970, and then as the first President of the Gambia, from 1970 to 1994. In 1963, honorary membership of the Bathurst Club was extended to him, when he was then Premier. Thus began his 56-year association with the Fajara Club.
Both of Sir Dawda’s surviving wives, a few of his children and some of his grandchildren also took up the game of golf. One of his sons, Ebrima, is a founding member of the Gambia Golfers Association (GGA) and he is currently the association’s president.
In 1971, one year after becoming the first president of the Gambia, his government donated £3,400 (app. £43,000 today) towards the development of the golf course.
In 1975, the Gambia Golf Federation was formed with the then Minister of External Affairs, A. B. Njie as its first chairman. The first Pro/Am organised by the federation took place in March 1977, under the patronage of Sir Dawda who also took part in the tournament.
He was instrumental in the selection of one of the caddies who would go overseas for golf coaching in the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Nigeria – to become the country’s first golf professional, in the person of Bakary Samateh.
One of the highlights of the Gambia’s golfing calendar used to be the President’s Trophy, a two-day tournament played at both the Fajara Club and the State House Golf Course, under Sir Dawda’s sponsorship and patronage.
In 1990, during the Gambia’s Silver Jubilee Independence Anniversary celebrations, the Fajara Club bestowed Honorary Life Membership on President Jawara and his family.