Voice of Sport

Open starts Thursday at Karen; never loss of hope that ‘local’ can upset foreign for title

Recent South African domination in the Barclays Kenya Open golf tournament has been apparent and yet again they bring on formidable challenge


THE double spectacle in the annual Barclays Kenya Open golf tournament is the local spectators’ awe of the international professionals and the passionate support of home players. It does not matter the caliber of the visitors but, the home crowd has rooted for their own to one day win the Open.

Jacob Okello holds the record of coming closest. At Muthaiga in 1998, he lost in a sudden death play-off to Argentina’s Ricardo Gonzalez. Okello has finished fourth twice — in 2006 at Karen where he tied on four under par 276 with South Africa’s James Kamte and the following year also at the same venue where he shot two under par 278.

Breakthrough

Tomorrow [Thursday] he lines up again at Karen Country Club for the start of this year’s event even though lately the hopes of clinching the ultimate prize by Kenyans perhaps belonged elsewhere. Will it again be Dismas Indiza Anyoni and Greg Snow the better players in the recent past or has another man broken through to give the foreigners a run for their money?

Last year the local hero, commonly known as just Indiza, was the top home finisher at 28th with a five under total of 282. There had been a lot of hope pinned on him following the previous year’s 13th place finish. But his best placing remains the 10th in the 2008 Open.

Best suited

The locals making the cut have routinely been dogged by a poor score in the final round that comes before a sell-out crowd on Sunday. Last year Indiza shot three over par 75 on the final day having scored 69, 69, and 70 while Snow who made the top 10 in 2014 was also let down by a 73 finish.

Again all eyes will be on how much push the locals can give the visitors and as usual there is some focus on the men best suited. Indiza is still one of them and the home support is encouraged by the fact that local pros have had some good preparation in some serious domestic events whose competition was cut-throat. Indiza was a bit lukewarm winning only the second of the three Barclays Kenya Open pre-qualifying events at Limuru. The form book suggests top local challenge out of the 22 pros to be in this order: David Wakhu, Indiza, Tony Omuli, Nelson Simwa, Snow, David Opati, Riz Charania, Brian Njoroge and Simon Ngige.

Muthaiga

The locals say, however, that the greens are likely to be a serious challenge. The Karen Country Club course is considered as fairly easier than Muthaiga’s that was once almost a traditional home of the Open.

Only three players; Indiza, Njoroge and Mathew Omondi made the second round cut last year where South Africa’s Haydn Porteous won in a sudden death play-off against his country man Brandon Stone.

Absent

A field of 156 players including six amateurs kick off the business at the par 72 Karen course. The top cash prize is €32,000 (about Sh3.58 million). Porteous the reigning champion will not be part of the action. He did not perform well after his victory at Karen last year but he managed to secure a two-year exemption in the European Tour following his historical victory at the Johannesburg Open two months ago. Therefore he did not need to come to Kenya, a round of the European Challenge Tour in order to maintain his place in the premier European Tour.

However, there are seven South Africans who are drawn at Karen this week who will be seeking to follow the recent victorious footsteps of their compatriots. Since Trevor Immelman’s victory in 2000 South Africans have won the Kenya Open four more times including Porteous last year, Ashley Roestoff (2001), Michiel Bothma (2011) and Jake Roos (2014).

Outing

Of the South Africans who are here to challenge the Europeans and the locals include Christian Bezuitenhout, who is currently ranked sixth in the 2016 Sunshine Tour. His last outing was the Investec Cup last weekend where he was placed 13th. Others are; Jacques Blaauw, Dylan Frittelli and Danie Van Tonder.

Action begins at 7.15am with Swiss Damian Ulrich leading out Oliver Bekker (South Africa) and Spaniard Jose Manuel Lara. The first Kenya on the tee will be in Game 3 (7.35am) where James Karanja Muigai accompanies Christian Gloet (Denmark) and Englishman Sam Connor. Then at 9.05am John Karichu, the first of four Kenyan amateurs — two others are Richard Otile of Uganda and Frenchman Romaine Langasque  — takes the field alongside Tacco Remnes of The Netherlands and Teemu Bakker of Finland. In the last tee off on the afternoon, 2.10pm C J Wangai contests against Jacob Glennemo of Sweden and Paul Howard of England.

The Kenya Open is part of the European Challenge Tour. This Tour includes 28 tournaments in 22 different countries. The Tour kicks off in Kenya and concludes with the Grand Final in Muscat, Oman. This will be the 48th edition of the Kenya Open (having started in 1967). The Kenya Open became part of the Challenge Tour schedule in 1991.  Karen will be hosting the 2016 BKO for the fourth year running

AMATEURS taking part:

  1. Romaine Langasque – (France)
  2. Ronald Otile – (Uganda)
  3. John Karichu – (KENYA)
  4.  John Kariuki – (KENYA)
  5. Kenneth Bollo – (KENYA)
  6. Mathew Wahome – (KENYA

– Additional reporting by kenyaopengolf