Eyes on the price as Kenya Open tees off

[PHOTO: COURTESY]

There will be little room for error when top local and international professional golfers tackle the first round of the 2018 Barclays Bank of Kenya championships that begin today at the par 71 Muthaiga course.

Railway Club’s Alfred Nandwa will be the first Kenyan to tee off at 7:50am, alongside Finland’s Roope Kakko and Germany’s Christian Braeunig.

Jeff Kubwa will be the next on line at 8:10am. Kubwa yesterday expressed confidence going into the tournament.

“We have prepared well and are confident of a great week at the Kenya Open. We urge Kenyans to come out in large numbers and support us,” said Kubwa.

Last year’s top Kenyan finisher Simon Ngige will get his campaign underway at 12:10pm followed by Golf Park’s Jacob Okello, who will tee off at 12:40pm.

Long-hitting Dismas Indiza from Mumias Club will tee off after at 12:50pm.

The four-round event, which ends on Sunday, will see the golfers battle it out for the increased total prize kitty of €500,000 (Sh62.5 million).

Apart from the prize kitty, the golfers will also be eyeing a Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 Coupe, valued at €89,400 (Sh11 million), which is up for grabs for the player who sinks a hole-in-one on the 13th hole.

Finland’s Oliver Lindell sank the first-ever competitive hole-in-one in last year’s championships to win a Ford Ranger WildTrak valued at Sh6.9 million and is back to try his luck.

The championship, now in its 50th edition, will feature 156 players, 106 of whom were selected on merit through the European Challenge Tour.

Kenya Open Golf Limited selected 50 players, including 22 Kenyans and other regional professionals as well as local amateurs.

The local players to watch out for include Okello, who has given a good account of himself at previous Kenya Open appearances. Okello is the only Kenyan who has ever come close to winning the coveted title by finishing in the top five in both the 2006 and 2007 championships.

Okello believes things might change this year as the event celebrates its 50th anniversary. 

“This championships is a mental strength and we Kenyans are strong and can hit the ball like others. Despite lack of support, we have trained well. Watch out for us; the celebrations could be held for one of us,” said Okello.

Fans who, will follow the event from a special pavilion, should also focus on Indiza, Windsor Golf Club’s Riz Charania, Thika’s Simon Ngige, Muthaiga’s Kopan Timbe, and Frank Matilo.

Sigona’s John Wangai, Vet Lab’s Brian Njoroge, Nelson Simwa, Golf Park’s Matthew Omondi, Nyali’s Njuguna Ngugi, Railways’ Alfred Nandwa, South African-based Kenyan Stefan Andersen, Royal’s Erick Obura, and Great Rift’s Justus Madoya are also in the mix.

With the absence of last year’s winner Aaron Rai from England, the locals should expect a tight tussle against European Tour winners Johan Edfors, Felipe Aguilar, Julien Quesne, and Gary Stal.

Other favourites are three-time Challenge Tour winner Roope Kakko from Finland, former European Tour Champion Anton Karlsson, Englishmen Gary Boyd and Robert Dinwiddie, and Sweden’s Sebastian Soderberg.

The four Kenyan amateurs are Vet Lab’s Edwin Mudanyi, Muthaiga’s Bhavnish Chandaria, Royal’s Dennis Saikwa, and Nyali’s Daniel Nduva.