Save for a few individual players, both in the professional and amateur ranks, 2019 was not an excellent year for Kenyan golfers at the international scene.
And it all started at the Magical Kenya Open at Karen Country Club in March where the open, which started in 1967, was marking a new chapter, that of being part of the European Tour’s “Race to Dubai” series. Kenya’s top players, expected to perform well on home soil, did anything but that.
This was despite the local pros and amateurs having featured in the inaugural Safari Tour series, a project of the Kenya Open Golf Limited.
As usual, One of the reasons given by, particularly the professionals, was that they did not have adequate preparation compared to their visiting colleagues who had played over 28 tournaments prior to their trip to Karen.
Besides, the European Tour field was stronger than the previous year that was played under the umbrella of the European Challenge Tour.
In the end, only two players Simon Ngige of Thika Sports Club and the Great Rift Valley Golf Resort’s Justus Madoya managed to finish in the money list though poorly placed.
Ngige finished in 25th position on two under par total while Madoya was down at 72nd place.
Those who failed to make the required second round cut included Kenya’s well known professional Dismas Indiza, Greg Snow and South Africa based amateur Daniel Nduva.
However, probably because of the pros having been included in this year’s “KCB Road to Karen Masters” series even though in a few events, the players as well as the amateurs, did very well in the Karen Masters, a Sunshine Tour sanctioned event.
Professionals Justus Madoya, Jeff Kubwa, Riz Charania, David Wakhu, Simon Ngige, John Wangai, amateur Simon Njogu, Dismas Indiza and Greg Snow made the second round cut with Snow tying for the seventh place. Nduva missed the cut by one shot.
That performance at the Karen Masters in June, appeared to have triggered or awaken the Kenyans.
Soon after the tournament, the pros and some of the elite amateurs begun the Safari Tour’s “Road to Karen Masters 2020’’ at Nyali Golf and Country Club where the Kenyans dominated the event with only Tanzania’s Nuru Molell going through the second round in the event won by Snow. Local amateur Daniel Nduva was tied fourth.
That performance was repeated at the second leg at Royal Nairobi where Golf Park’s Tony Omuli beat home pro Erick Ooko in a play-off.
Again top amateur Nduva was among those who made the cut. It was a bit tough for the Kenyans in the third leg, the Uganda Open which became part of the Safari Tour this year and held at the magnificent Lake Victoria Serena Resort.
All the same, there were 12 Kenyans who made the cut where Indiza came fourth, compared to only six Ugandans with their best player placed in 10th place.
The title went to Zambia with Madalitso Muthiya. Before the pro event, Nduva had won the amateur title with an impressive score of eight under par.
This was followed by Justus Madoya’s victory at the Entebbe Open, the fourth leg of the Safari Tour, while back at Lake Victoria Serena, Indiza and Nduva claimed the pro and amateur titles.
Here the Kenyans claimed the first seven slots.
Back home for the sixth leg, Indiza, completed a double, leading 21 Kenyans into the money list where Nigeria’s Andrew Odoh and Zimbabwe’s Robson Chinhoi came third and fourth respectively.
Two amateurs, including home player Simon Njogu and Daniel Nduva were among the 21 who made the cut.
But that was in so far as individual performance was concerned. In the team performances, the Kenya amateurs lost both the Africa Region Four and the Victoria Cup played between Kenya and Uganda.
It was the Africa Region Four title which went to Uganda first in June at Bujumbura Golf Club in Burundi where the Kenyan players blamed the change of format forced by the low turnout, where players were subjected to 72 stroke play qualifying instead of the usual 18 holes.
Uganda had claimed the title (formerly) East Africa Challenge Cup the previous year at Nyali Golf and Country Club. This is an event which Kenya had dominated for many years since it was started in 1999.
Then came the Victoria Cup which Kenya had won in 2016 at Muthaiga, 2017 at Entebbe, and 2018 at Vet Lab Sports Club. This time round, the Ugandans, supported by an enthusiastic crowd, produced an excellent performance to eventually beat Kenya 14- 12 to clinch the trophy. Interestingly, the trophy was donated by former Boston Marathon champion Moses Tanui.
On the junior section of the national calendar, Kenya, failed to participate in the 2019 All Africa Junior Championship in Botswana due to lack of finance and because of the fact that the event was also taking place at the same weekend with the Magical Kenya Open at Karen.
The ladies, equally did poorly in 2019, as they lost the Gilberson and Page trophy played between Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe and whose final leg was staged at Sigona Golf Club.
The Kenyans had started badly in the first leg at Karen. This was followed by the 54-hole Kenya Ladies Open where Tanzania’s Madina IDD once again denied the Kenyan ladies the trophy.
Madina later steered her Tanzanian team to victory in the Pre-AACT East Africa Challenge Cup in Uganda where Kenya finished in third place.
And finally, five lady golfers including Nyali-based professional Bhavi Shah were invited to play in the inaugural Magical Kenya Ladies Open, a Ladies European Tour (LET) tournament which brought together a field of 106 players.
Not much was expected of them bearing in mind that those playing in the LET are in a different class all together.
But at least former Ladies Amateur champion Naomi Wafula despite playing with poor clubs, and Shah, made it past the first round only to miss the cut by several shots.
With Uganda hosting the Africa Region Four at Uganda Golf Club in 2020, Kenya, will have to go back to the drawing board and find the winning formula if the country wants to claim its past glory.
The Victoria Cup will be staged at Nyali, and going by the way the Ugandans performed in last year’s Region Four at the same venue, that may not be a cup of tea for the Kenyans once again.
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