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Why Kenyan golfers performed dismally at Kenya Open and Savannah Classic

GOLF By Ochieng Oyugi | March 28th 2021
Local Golfer Erick Ooko Obura tees off during the Magical Kenya Open Tournament at the Karen Country Club on March 19, 2021. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Kenya hosted back-to-back two European Tour golf events that ended at the pristine Karen Country Club in Nairobi on Friday.

The 52nd edition of Magical Kenya Open was won by 35-year-old Justin Harding of South Africa on 21 under par 263.

Likewise, the inaugural Kenya Savannah Classic that followed was lifted by his compatriot, Daniel Van Tonder who floored Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand with a birdie on sudden death play-off.

The duo had tied on 21 under par 263 in regulation.

Locally, Kenyan golfers had a nightmare at Karen in the two events.

Only Railways Samuel Njoroge and Golf Park's David Wakhu saved the country blushes by going past the projected cut among the 21 golfers who plied trade for the nation in the tournaments.

Njoroge sailed to the money bracket in the Magical Kenya Open on two under par 140, ending the championship in 77th position after a level par finish in the four rounds he recorded 72, 68,74, 70.

Inform Wakhu was in a class of his own as he combed the Karen fairways.

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He made the cut at the Savannah Classic on a whooping eight under par 134, this was historic!

He ended 57th overall on seven under par 277 after scoring 66, 68, 74, 69 in the four rounds.

Njoroge blamed the weather for his lackluster performance that saw him fail to make it to round three at the Savannah.

"The course was playing tough, the wind and the greens were rolling very fast," he said.

Wakhu said lack of mental toughness cost him in the Open.

"I was afraid to make mistakes, this hindered me from releasing my full potential," he noted.

"I'm now going to learn how to manage pressure and control my swings so as to hold my balance in position," he added.

Edwin Inana of Vet Lab took part at the Open for the first time as a pro, same as Njoroge.

Inana finished 140th in the Open on six over par. He later dropped to 146th on ten over par at the Savannah.

He blamed the wind for his misery on the pitch.

"The course was a bit windy but I did all that I could to control my shots not to run long," Inana said.

Local Pro Edwin Inana Isuza during the Magical Kenya Open Tournament at the Karen Country Club on March 19, 2021. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Erick Ooko of Golf Park topped the local leaderboard along side Muthaiga's Taimur Malik on two under par 69 on day one of the Open.

Everyone thought the duo would carry on with the impressive show to the end.

But that was the last time both tasted the limelight. They both failed to go past the projected cut in the championships.

"The holes were not challenging at all, it is me who made high school mistakes," said Ooko.

Toni Omuli, also of Golf Park, failed to tackle holes par-4 hole three which used to be a par-5.

"The hole was playing hard and long. My other distraction was in hole 8 where my ball went out of bounds in the Open," Omuli said.

Dismas Indiza from Kenya tees off during the Magical Kenya Open Tournament at the Karen Country Club on March 19, 2021. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Mumias golfer Dismas Indiza, who was the best placed Kenyan ahead of the events by virtue of lifting the Safari Tour series, had a poor show.

Indiza was placed 134th on four over par in the Open and 120th on three over in the Savannah.

"I have nothing to write home bout. It was really tough, the going was really tough for me. I failed in all departments. I hope to be back stronger next season," Indiza said.

The script was the same for new inclusions in the Kenyan team, Mohit Mediratta and Njoroge Kibugu who both failed to go to the third round at the Savannah.

Kenya Open Golf Limited (KOGL) has said they were not impressed with performance of Kenyan golfers in the two tournaments.

KOGL has planned a postmortem to establish where the problem lies.

"The pros were well facilitated by sponsors and the government ahead of the events. They took part in the high level Safari Tour series to build skills, stamina and fitness.

"They now only needed to replicate what they learnt the whole season on the pitch at Karen, but only to end up a disappointment," KOGL Tournament Director Patrick Obath said.

KOGL plans to involve psychologists and motivational speakers to sharpen the team mentally and inspire them ahead of major events.

At the same time, KOGL has warned the players that there will be no automatic qualification for the championships next year.

This means Njoroge and Wakhu will have to battle it out for the Open and the Savannah slots through the government-sponsored Safari Tour series.

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