Sports

Year in Review: Youngsters shine as local pros fail to impress on European Tour

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 29 – Adel Balala was the star attraction on the amateur front as the 2021 golfing season culminated with Nyali Open in the Coast.

with six wins under his belt, Adel went ahead to win the Kenya Amateur Golf Championship series. Michael Karanga was second and the Kenya Golf Union (KGU) officials decided to give him the third amateur ticket for the 2022 Magical Kenya Open.

Balala became the best ranked amateur golfer in Kenya on the World Amateur Golf Ranking.

The best ranking, he accomplished this year was 141, the best a Kenyan has ever achieved. He is currently ranked 168th after he managed 8th position at the Abu Dhabi Amateur Championship earlier this month.

–Safari Tour season 3—

Muthaiga Golf Club’s Greg Snow follows the flight of his shot on the first round of the Sigona Golf Club leg of the Safari Tour Golf Series.

The 2021-2022 Safari Tour season teed-off at Sigona Golf Club in October.

After the final round, Mohit Mediratta, Edwin Inana Asuza (aka Edwin Mudanyi) and Taimur Malik (a junior amateur golfer) were tied at four under par. Malik, from Muthaiga Golf Club, won the season opener by beating the two professionals after two playoff holes to win the first tournament of the season.

Only one other amateur, Michael Karanga, has ever won a Safari Tour event during the 2018-2019 Safari Tour season at Limuru Country Club.

The first amateur to book his ticket for the 2022 Magical Kenya Open was John Lejirma from Railway Golf Club, who won the 99th edition of the Kenya Amateur Match Play Championship at Muthaiga Golf Club.

Adel Balala managed to get the second direct ticket when he won the 2021 Kenya Amateur Strokeplay Championship that was played at Nakuru Golf Club.

For the first time in history, Kenya hosted back to back European Tour events: the Magical Kenya Open and the Kenya Savannah Classic.

Due to the COVID-19 situation at the time, the Savannah Classic was intended to be a one-off event and created a two-week “Kenyan swing” with the Magical Kenya Open being played at the same location the week prior.

A total of 15 Kenyan professionals and four non-Kenyans qualified to play in both events through the 2020-2021 Safari Tour Season 3, under a stringent COVID-19 bubble environment.

As expected, leading locals didn’t impress much with several with likes of Simon Ngige, Dismas Indiza and Greg Snow failing to make cuts at both events.

Mumias Sugar-based Dismas Indiza tees-off on day three of the Safari Tour Golf Series at the Nyali Golf Club.

 The regional pros who qualified from Safari Tour were Dismas Indiza, Robson Chinhoi (Zimbabwe), Greg Snow, Simon Ngige, David Wakhu, Ooko Erick Obura, CJJohn Wangai, Samuel Njoroge, Jastas Madoya, Edwin Inana Asuza, Rizwan Charania, Mathew Omondi, Jacob Okello, Anthony Juma, Mohit Mediratta, Andrew Odoh (Nigeria), Matthew G. Wahome and Phillip Kasozi (Uganda) and Deo Akope (Uganda).

The amateur golfers who qualified to play in the 2021 Magical Kenya Open were Paul Muchangi – winner of the 2019 Kenya Amateur Matchplay Championship, Victor Joseph from Tanzania – winner of the 2019 Kenya Amateur Strokeplay Championship, Isaac Makokha – winner of the 2020 Kenya Amateur Matchplay Championship and Jay Sandhu – winner of the 2020 Kenya Amateur Strokeplay Championship.

Mutahi Kibugu had qualified as the top junior in Kenya but his caddie tested positive for COVID-19 and since they had traveled in the same taxi from Muthaiga, he was not allowed to participate. Adel Balala was called in to take Kibugi’s place.

Taimur Malik – was second in the Junior Golfers rankings.

For the Kenya Savannah Classic, Victor Joseph and Paul Muchangi, who were the bottom two performers in the MKO, were replaced by Njoroge Kibugu who was ranked third in the Junior rankings and Michael Karanga who was second in the 2020 Kenya Amateur Golf Championship.

-Van Tonder’s maiden European Tour title—

South African Daniel Van Tonder follows his shot during the KCB Karen masters on July 20, 2018. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

Daniel van Tonder secured his first European Tour title at the Kenya Savannah Classic supported by Absa after defeating Jazz Janewattananond with a birdie on the third play-off hole at Karen Country Club.

The 30-year-old South African posted a closing seven under par round of 64 to join Thailand’s Janewattananond on 21 under par and after both players parred the first two trips back down the 18th hole, it was third time lucky for van Tonder as he converted his short birdie putt following a sublime approach.

He was eight under par after 13 holes following five gains in a row from the ninth hole, but back-to-back bogeys at the 14th and 15th handed the advantage to Janewattananond. He needed to find something special and he holed a lengthy birdie putt on the final hole to force extra holes.

David Wakhu was the local attraction after wrapping up Day One of Kenya Savannah Classic in joint 12th. An eagle on the par 5, 11th saw the Golf Park pro close the day on 5 under par 66. Such was the excitement that characterized Wakhu’s fairy tale run at the at the Par 71 Karen Country Club course.

–Wakhu powers to money bracket—

Golf Park’s David Wakhu poses with the trophy after winning the Sigona leg of Safari Tour. Photio/RAYMOND MAKHAYA

Wakhu’s two rounds of 66-68 placed him in the money bracket of the Kenya Savannah Classic after Kenya Vision 2030 sponsored pro closed Day Two tied for 14th.

The Golf Park professional made 7 birdies and 4 bogeys to wrap up the second round on an impressive 8 under par 134.

On the second day of the tournament, the on form Wakhu played a round of 3 under 68 to make up for his Magical Kenya Open woes where he missed the cut.

Wakhu finished the Savannah Classic event tied for 57 with a gross cumulative total of 7under par 277.

-Harding seals second European Tour title—

South Africa’s Justin Harding receives his trophy from President Uhuru Kenyatta.

South Africa’s Justin Harding produced a flawless final round of five-under-par 66 at the Kenya Open on Sunday to seal a two-shot victory over Kurt Kitayama and his second European Tour title.

Overnight leader Harding, whose maiden tour win came two years ago at the Qatar Masters, maintained his composure amid a steady challenge from American Kitayama to finish on 21 under par at the Karen Country Club in Nairobi.

Kitayama made two eagles and two birdies as he threatened to catch Harding by reducing his lead to one shot, but a bogey on the 11th meant he fell short.

Scotland’s Connor Syme finished with a 64 to secure third place ahead of Spaniard Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez.

 Railway Club golfer Samuel Njoroge is the only Kenyan to make the cut as the magical Kenya Open enters the halfway stage at the Karen Country Club on Saturday.

Njoroge who turned pro in last year in October made it to the money bracket with a 2 under par 140 score. He played a round of 3 under yesterday.

“I was relaxed, more than the opening day. It was my second day and I knew the course, so I said, today I have to play well. Then on seven, I lost my ball and then on hole 14 I lost a ball again, but I recovered very well,” Njoroge said of his second day experience. He finished the event in 77th position.

–European Tour Bubble Environment—

Kenyan Pros who have qualified for this year’s Magical Kenya Open pose for a photo at the end of the Windsor leg of the Safari Tour Golf Series.

Golfers attending the Magical Kenya Open Tournament and Savannah Classic spent two weeks in an unprecedented COVID-19 bubble which entailed hotel and venue only access.

At least 700 people involved in running the two tournaments where stringent rules had to factored in to avoid situations of a super spreader.

All players, caddies, tournament administrators and anyone who was going to be in close proximity with the players including the media had to be confined to a controlled environment which entailed four hotels and the event venue at the Karen Country Club. The bubble locked out several media personalities who couldn’t manage the bubble costs of being in a hotel environment for a fortnight.

KENYA AMATEUR GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP 2021 TOURNAMENTS WINNERS

1 Sigona Bowl -Michael Karanga

2 Mt. Kenya Championship- Michael Karanga

3 Muthaiga Open- Bo Ciera

4 Coronation and Bendor Trophy- Dennis Maara

5 Limuru Open & Brackenhurst Trophy- Michael Karanga

6 Kenya Amateur Matchplay Championship- John Lejirma

7 Karen Challenge- Taimur Malik

8 Ronald Marshall & Toby Gibson Cup- Peter Rimui

9 Windsor Classic -Mutahi Kibugu

10 Kabete Open- Adel Balala

11 Trans-Nzoia Championship- Adel Balala

12 Tea Fields Trophy -Michael Karanga

13 Winston Churchill- Adel Balala

14 Nandi Bears Open Shield Nelson Koech

15 Kenya Amateur Strokeplay Championship- Adel Balala

16 Coast Open “Barry Cup” -Adel Balala

17 Manchester Salver -Simon Karari

18 Goldfields Trophy- Nelson Koech

19 Railway Invitational- John Lejirma

20 Nyanza Open “Hippo Pot” -Dennis Maara

21 Uhuru Shield -John Lejirma

22 Nyali Open- Adel Balala

GOLFER OF THE YEAR Adel Balala

2021/2022 SAFARI TOUR WINNERS SO FAR

•Sigona -Taimur Malik (Am)

•Nyali-Deo Akope (Uganda)

•Vet Lab- Robinson Chinhoi (Zimbabwe)

•Great Rift-David Wakhu (Golf Park)

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