Miami Herald

Golfer takes a long road from Kenya to boost program at St. Thomas

- BY WALTER VILLA Miami Herald Writer

Serah Khanyereri was 13 when she saw her first golf course back home in Kenya — and she was shocked. Hilariousl­y so.

“When I got to the putting green, it was very pure — like a carpet,” said Khanyereri, who is from a country known for distance runners, not golfers. “I started asking: ‘Am I supposed to remove my shoes?’

“I didn’t want to step on that beautiful carpet with my shoes.”

These days, Khanyereri steps on putting greens often — but while wearing her golf cleats.

Khanyereri is a star golfer for St. Thomas University and has a good chance this spring of becoming a four-time NAIA All-American.

A 25-year-old senior who is fluent in Swahili and English, Khanyereri is playing her final season of collegiate golf while also studying for a master’s degree in sports administra­tion.

“When she first came here, our program was brand new,” STU golf coach Steve Evans said. “She has brought enormous talent to our campus. We wouldn’t be where we are [ranked 19th in the nation in NAIA] without her.”

Khanyereri credits her golf fundamenta­ls to her mentor for the past 12 years, Rose Naliaka, a self-taught player and the first pro golfer to come from Kenya.

Now in her 60s, Naliaka mentors numerous underprivi­leged girls. Without Naliaka, golf would have been out of reach for Khanyereri.

“I grew up poor, but, luckily, I got introduced to the game by a profession­al lady,” Khanyereri said of Naliaka. “She came to my school because she was interested in giving back to the community.

“I’m glad she identified the talent in me.”

Once Naliaka took Khanyereri to her first golf course, that’s when she found out about those smooth putting surfaces.

Later, sponsored by

First Tee of New York, Khanyereri landed at Raritan Valley Community College in North Branch, New Jersey.

But, due to COVID, Khanyereri didn’t get to golf at Raritan. Instead, she entered her name in the transfer portal, and that’s where the STU Bobcats pounced.

Pretty soon after that, Evans discovered Khanyereri’s full talent.

Despite her smallish stature — she’s 5-3 and 118 pounds — Khanyereri can drive the ball more than 265 yards, according to Evans.

It’s all about technique, Khanyereri said.

“I don’t go to the gym often,” she said. “I try to eat as much as I can so I can gain weight, but I can’t.

“So, for me, it’s about the consistenc­y in rotating my hips.”

Evans said Khanyereri hits some of the longest drives in women’s college golf.

“Serah is top 10 in the nation [in NAIA] in distance,” Evans said. “She has a fluid and easy swing, which helps her generate remarkable power.

“She also has a great short game, and she’s a leader to our younger golfers.”

The Bobcats this spring will look for more performanc­es from Khanyereri like the career-best 3-under-par 69 she shot last year at Grasslands Golf Course in Lakeland.

But even as she advances in her sport, one thing that’s missing from her golfing portfolio is a hole in one.

“It’s taken longer than I thought,” Khanyereri said. “But it’s coming.”


Nova Southeaste­rn

University (19-3) has won a school-record 17 straight women’s basketball games. Most recently, NSU beat host EmbryRiddl­e 63-61 on Morgan Kane’s two free throws with two seconds left.

The Barry University women’s tennis team had a school-record 91-match winning streak that ended Thursday against a Division I school, Florida Gulf

Coast, 4-3, in Fort Myers.

Florida Memorial University’s softball team (5-1) is off to its best start in program history. The team went 12-26 last season.

 ?? Contribute­d ?? Serah Khanyereri of Kenya is aiming to be a four-time NAIA All-American at St. Thomas University. She has helped the program gain a top-20 NAIA ranking.
Contribute­d Serah Khanyereri of Kenya is aiming to be a four-time NAIA All-American at St. Thomas University. She has helped the program gain a top-20 NAIA ranking.

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