All roads lead to the Magical Kenya Open Golf Championship

By Mike The Pro Kibunja: Thursday, March 7th 2019 at 16:43 GMT +3 | Golf
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The elusive orb takes center stage in less than ten days as all roads shall lead to Karen Club for the European Tour’s Magical Kenya Open Golf Championship. Forget watching the soccer and Rugby leagues this week: We know that K’Ogalo, Man City and Homeboyz are going to win the 2019 leagues anyway.

Everybody who loves golf, whether an amateur, professional, spectator or armchair coach who couldn’t tell a golf driver from Hagar’s pillaging implement of choice knows that golf is the only game in town this weekend and come hell or high water, we shall be there.

We have been promised a show like no other. Top-ranked world golfers gathered in Kenya. For most of us who have never had a chance to watch these gladiators of the fairways in action up close, this will be your best opportunity. At the forefront shall be the South Africans, ready to show their European counterparts that they can not only beat them in their land of Shaka but anywhere else on African soil too.

Msanzi is well represented on the European Tour, and quite a number of their Pros have used the Kenya Open as their launch pad.

Trevor Immelmann won the Kenya Open before winning the Masters. “The Cobra”, James Kamte, has been our regular visitor.

They will be challenged by a tough team from Europe. Aaron Rai the undercover Kenyan who won the Kenya Open in 2017 when it was a Challenge Tour event, might decide to break a record and win it as a European Tour competition. By the end of the week, the names of the players shall be out and you can start placing your bets.

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Up for the taking is the Magical Kenya Open title, which comes with a bronze sculpture of one of the Big Five, the red Kenya Open jacket, 2000 points for the Race to Dubai and a €160, 000 winner’s cheque, doubled from last year after the Government increased its sponsorship for the event to Sh280 Million.

The Sh20 million winner’s cheque is the biggest winner’s sports prize ever offered in Kenya. Any Pro who makes the halfway cut shall also grab a share of the €1,100,000 prize money. That is over Sh110 million to be shared out within various proportions depending on the golfer’s final score!

For golfer equipment geeks, the show starts at the range. These Pros shall be wielding the latest gizmos in golf clubs. From Titleist TS series, Taylormade M5 and M6, Ping G410, Callaway Epic Flash and Epic Flash Sub Zero Drivers, Titleist 718 AP3 irons, Taylormade P730, Tiger’s new iron, Scotty Cameron and Spider X putters. Craig’s at Sarit Center already have them in stock should you get inspired to buy.

They say that if you can’t play like a Pro, at least dress like one. I have always lamented that our Pros do not bother with their cladding, and appear in ugly dumpy trousers that are three inches too long best suited for sweeping the ground, and dull oversized shirts. Just compare with those European boys in their sleek Adidas golf shirts and elegantly fitted pants.

Now that our Kenyan golfers are in the limelight, we shall no doubt see some mercenary marketing departments waylaying our Pros with offers to wear golf shirts with their products logos, and for that marketing, exposure paying the Pros peanuts. If they are so supportive, shouldn’t they sponsor these golfers throughout the year? Only Mumias Sugar seems to understand this.

The golf itself will be a great learning experience for our young golfers. Watch these experienced Pros do everything you have been told by your teachers but didn’t take seriously.  Starting from the previous few days, they will have played the course at least once, making observations, taking notes and updating their yardage books.

On the night before the competition, they will have done a good workout at the range, gym and treadmill, followed by an energizing meal, before sleeping comfortably and sober for at least eight hours.

On the day of the competition, action again starts in the gym followed by a carb-loading breakfast. No sausages, eggs or bacon even if offered for free. Next, they will head to the range for a warm up. Shame on those of us who stupidly brag that they never go to the range.

A pre-game workout at the range is not done haphazardly: it’s systematic. They will then head to the practice bunker and play some chip shots before finishing up with lagged putts. Compare that to most of us who run from the changing room to the tee and waste the first three holes trying to wake up their bodies.

The Pro knows how long he needs to warm up and what to do so that he is at the Starter’s tee at the required ten minutes before his tee time. He will have all his equipment with him: golf bag and clubs, rain suit and umbrella, yardage books, scorecard and pen, golf balls, gloves, towel, pitch mark repair fork, ball marker, tees and even sunscreen as necessary.

Finally, he will count the number of clubs in his bag and ensure they do not exceed fourteen. Once his name is called to the first tee, its show time!

These boys are long and accurate! Be ready to be amazed by their 300-yard drives that split the fairway. Then followed by pin-seeking approach shots the length of which you wouldn’t have expected to be made with such short irons and still the ball next to the pin.

 

To the savvy golfer, there is more than just long drives going on. The Pros are competing against each other, so there are some subtle games going on between them. Each will try to gather as much information from the other before playing his shot. The visiting Pros will be watching the local players for local knowledge.

It is in the short game that the local boys have the greatest advantage. How a chip or pitch flies and stops has a lot to do with the texture of grass. In southern California, visiting Pros get really frustrated by Kikuyu Grass. We have plenty of Kikuyu grass on Kenya Courses.

Putts offer another arena for mind games. You will see the Pros carefully watch how the other golfer’s longer putt behaves, especially on double-breaking putts where speed and initial direction are crucial.

If at the end of the competition the top position results in a tie as happened last year at the Kenya Open, the tiebreaker is a Matchplay playoff. It is in matchplay where gamesmanship happens. Gamesmanship is simply playing sneaky mind games against your opponent but within the rules.

Sunday at Kenya Open is an eye candy festival akin to the Concours d'élégance, Blankets and wines or airshow at Wilson Airport. Those not into the intricacies of golf can engage in the alternative game of birdwatching as the beautiful and elegant strut around the edges of the fairways like a catwalk.

Socialites, models and budding musicians resplendent in their flashy attires shall be there not just to watch the golf, but also to be watched. You finally might get to see Vera Sidika.

As usual, there will be something for everyone who desires to have a fun day in the pleasant open air and lawns. There will be a play park for the kids, a Tandoori Chicken and Bhajia corner for the eastern cuisine-oriented, as well as nyama choma. Not forgetting several watering holes to sooth the perched throats after walking in the sun.

The weatherman has declared that the sun shall drop down a few miles closer to earth, so dress light, in shorts and skirts, not long pants, wear comfortable sneakers, and a wide hat. Sunscreen is a must.

The organizers have promised two fantastic music concerts on Saturday and Sunday, hopefully not featuring Willy Paul! Go ahead, enjoy two fun weekend afternoons in the fresh air of the rolling lawns. [email protected]

 

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