Aaron Rai sealed an impressive and emotional victory at the Barclays Kenya Open, with his Kenya-born mother tearfully embracing her champion son on the 18th green at Muthaiga Golf Club in front of rapturous crowds.
The Englishman was adopted by the Nairobi faithful as one of their own this week and responded with some scintillating golf on the final day, making seven birdies in a round of 65 as his 17 under par total was three shots better than nearest rival Adrien Saddier.
The 22 year old narrowly missed out on a European Tour card last year when he finished 18th on the Road to Oman but, with victory at the European Challenge Tour’s season opener, he now tops the Rankings, albeit with 26 tournaments still to come.
With President Uhuru Kenyatta arriving to watch the closing holes, Rai put on a presidential display of golf, applying early leaderboard pressure to his rivals with birdies on the second and third and barely putting a foot wrong all day.
That his victory fell on Mother’s Day in the United Kingdom only added to the emotions as both mother and son were in tears, and Rai revealed that this was the first time his mother had returned to the country of her birth since she left it in 1970.
“It feels amazing,” he said. “It couldn’t have been a better event to win, with it being Kenya, and with the support of all the Kenyan people as well. There’s a big Indian population here I think and it was amazing having my mum here.
“She was born here and this was the first time she’s come back to Kenya in the 47 years since she left so I couldn’t have picked a better tournament for this to happen.
“It’s been amazing to have her here. It was something that we planned a couple of months ago – she wanted to come last year but couldn’t unfortunately because of work commitments but I think she picked a good year, the way the week turned out.
“There were some butterflies throughout, and I guess a bit of that is natural, but I think we dealt with it all pretty well and I just feel very fortunate to have won this week.
“I just tried to stick to the same game plan I’ve had all week, it’s not really a good time to change anything on the fourth day, especially if you’ve got yourself into a good position, so I just tried to do the same things today as I had for the previous three days.
“I fortunately got off to a very good start and that definitely helped me just play my own game a little bit more and not worry too much about what anyone else was doing.
“I never felt it was mine until we were on the green on the last hole. You can never take anything for granted in this game until the last putt is made and you know it’s yours.
“It’s been an amazing week and something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
France’s Saddier, another nearly man on last year’s Road to Oman, closed his week with a birdie to seal outright second place, one shot ahead of Italian Francesco Laporta and England’s overnight leader Matt Wallace.
Serial satellite tour winner Matt Wallace will look to continue the habit tomorrow on the European Challenge Tour as he takes a one-shot lead into the final round of the Barclays Kenya Open after an impressive Moving Day at Muthaiga Golf Club.
The Englishman was four shots behind overnight leader Adrien Saddier but his four under par third round of 67 took him to 12 under par, with Saddier and Aaron Rai his closest rivals.
The 26 year old was unstoppable on the Alps Tour last year, winning on five successive appearances before sealing a dominant top spot in the Order of Merit by also triumphing at the Grand Final.
Top ten finishes on the Challenge Tour in Spain and Italy last season also suggested he was ready to compete at this level and he was understandably delighted with his day’s work in Nairobi as he goes in search of the biggest victory of his young career.
“I played really nicely today,” he said. “Not actually as well as the last two days, but I gave myself a lot of chances today and managed to get through a scruffy patch in the middle and finish nicely again.
“I birdied the last two holes and did the same yesterday – I had a really nice yardage into 17 and decided to really attack it and stuffed it in there really close and 18 is always a really good birdie chance.
“I really approached today the same as all week, I was obviously four shots behind Adrien so I was trying to shoot as low as I could and post a good score, but I didn’t think I’d be leading – I’m there though and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.
“I’m hoping to learn from this experience because this is definitely the biggest crowd I’ve played in front of, especially the last few holes there, with a lot of people coming down. They really appreciate the good shots so hopefully I can give them something to cheer again tomorrow.
“I’ve got a local caddie on the bag this week who’s been doing the job here for 26 years – as long as I’ve been living! I talk to him a lot because I find if I go quiet I lose confidence.
“He’s been very good so far because obviously he knows the course very, very well – there’s been a few club decisions where I’ve gone ‘really?’ and it’s turned out perfect, so he knows his stuff and he knows my game well, given we’ve only been together for three or four days.
“Last year’s success was massive for me. I try to dumb it down as much as possible and say it’s just golf, and it is, but hopefully I can take the performances from last year into tomorrow.
“Jordan Smith showed last year how possible it is to move quickly to the top of the Challenge Tour from the satellite tours. I play with guys on the European Tour, Callum Shinkwin in particular, a lot and I think if I can compete with him, I know I can do it out here too.”
Three bogeys on the front nine cost France’s Saddier his lead while Englishman Rai birdied three of his final four holes for a round of 69 and a share of second place.
Welshman Rhys Davies, four times a winner on the Challenge Tour, momentarily topped the leaderboard before a scrappy back nine left him one shot further back on ten under par.
Also well within striking distance going into the final day are South Africans Jaco Ahlers and Louis De Jager and Sweden’s Jens Dantorp, all of whom share fifth place on nine under par, just three behind Wallace.
Source -- European Tour
History was made on the second day of the prestigious Barclays Kenya Open Tournament when Finland’s Oliver Lindell hit a historic hole-in-one at the Par-3 hole 13th at Muthaiga Golf Club to win a Ford Ranger WildTrak.
Using his 7 iron, the 18 year old attached to Virvik Golf hit the 173 meter shot over the water hazard to claim the first ever winning hole-in-one in the history of the Kenya Open.
The first timer in the Kenya Open lands the Ford Ranger Wildtrak valued at Sh 6.9 Million, close to Sh 3 million more than the tournament winner’s prize money which is estimated at Sh 3.5 million.
“This is a great feeling. It is my first time in Kenya and playing here has been very interesting as the altitude is totally different from the other events I have played in,” expressed Lindell, adding that the hole-in-one shot helped him in improving his score.
“I did not play well yesterday as I finished at 2 over par but today was better as I recorded a 6 under par which is a score likely to make cut. I stand little chance to win the tournament, unless I make another albatross,” he added.
CMC Motors General Manager (passenger cars) Patrick Amenya expressed his delight in having the first winner of the car in 49 years. “This is great for the company and we are committing to have another car in the next edition and hope to get another winner,” he said.
On her part, head of Government Relations and Public Policy Hellen Ndeti said that she is glad that on their first year of sponsoring the tournament, history has been made.
“We have had other hole-in-one’s before but none has been on the designated hole. This is exciting for us as the organisers, history being made at the ‘home of Golf’,” Kathleen Kihanya, head of PR and sponsorships intimated.
Other than the hole in one, Lindell had picked an eagle on par five hole ten where he teed off and picked a total of four birdies and two bogeys on the course for his 6 under par 65 score.
Source -- Kenya Golf Guide
Simon Ngige played an inspired round of 7 birdies and 6 pars as he went on to claim a total score of 67, 4 under the 71 par Muthaiga Golf course, at the end of Day one of the Barclays Kenya Open.
Ngige ended day one tied for 13th as the best placed Kenyan, ahead of amateur Alfred Nandwa (T42) who ended on 2 under par, Riz Charania and David Odhiambo (T56) both on 1 under par. Stefan Adersen and Richard Ainley (T73) finishing the day on par.
The day however belonged to South Africa’s Jaco Ahlers, the former European Tour player blowing away the field to finish on 7 under par to finish top of the Leaderboard, ahead of Welshman Rhys Davies who shot a 6 under par.
Defending Kenya Open champion Sebastien Soderberg finished on T56 after playing a round of one under par. Kenyan hopefuls Dismas Indiza and Jacob Okello both had a bad day at the office playing rounds of 1 over and 7 over par respectively.
Greg Snow also completing a rough day on the Muthaiga course on 2 over par to place him at T113.
Day 2 action resumes on Friday from 7:00 am with players aiming to make the CUT to play into the weekend.
Netherlands’ Will Besseling, the winner of Karen Masters last week was also impressive, posting 35 in the first nine and 32 on the back nine for a score of 4 under par 67.
Former champion Gary Boyd of England posted a similar score but would have had a better result had he not picked a double bogey on hole 12 that cancelled an eagle on hole 10 where he teed off.
Reigning champion, Swedish Sebastian Soderberg is six strokes behind the leader after picking four bogeys in his round, he, however, picked a total of five birdies to settle for one under par 70.
The field for Friday's matches has, however, been reduced owing to the withdrawal of Englands Chris Lloyd, Bjorn Hellgren of Sweden who retired and the disqualification of Kenya’s Mathew Omondi who signed for the wrong score.
Leader board after Round 1:
Jaco Ahlers (SA) -7 64
Rhys Davies (WL) -6 65
Oscar Lengden (SWE) -6 65
Oscar Stark (SWE) -6 65
Jens Dantorp (SWE) -6 65
Kalle Samooja (FIN) -6 65
Jason Day joined several marquee players who will not participate when golf returns to the Olympics in August for the first time in 112 years.
The Nairobi City County governor unveiled the Golf Tour tournament which will include; Junior tournament, The Caddies classic, the professionals tournament and amateur challenge.
Frenchman Edouard Dubois and Kenyan amateur Patrick Nduati won the 2016 Pro-Am golf tournament at par 72 Karen Country Club. The duo fired an impressive score of nine-under par 63 to secure Euros 600 (Sh67, 800) prize money in the four ball stableford contest.
National team player Kenneth Bollo at the weekend broke the jinx to win his maiden Sigona Bowl title at the par 72 course after a nerve cracking sudden death play-off against home player Sujan Shah on the 18th hole.It was a bright start for the player who finished a close second at last season’s Golfer Of The Year (GOTY) standings, given that Sigona Bowl is the season opener, the first event in the Goty series.
Vet Lab Sports Club’s Mike Kisia recovered from a double bogey with two holes to go, to build a narrow one shot lead during the opening round of the 54-hole Sigona Bowl golf championship at the par 72 Sigona Golf Club course on Saturday. Kisia took off well enroute to a level par front nine that included a birdie at the par five-fourth hole before dropping a shot at the seventh hole.
Vet Lab Sports Club’s Edwin Mudanyi completed a five under par total of 211 gross to emerge the best in the two-day 54-hole Africa Amateur Strokeplay Championship qualifying round at the par 72 Sigona Golf Club course on Tuesday. The handicap one, who has been in a tremendous form over the past couple of months, shot two under par 70 in yesterday’s final round of the Kenya Golf Union -organised qualifier to beat Royal Nairobi’s Kenneth Bollo by eight shots.
Outspoken top amateur golfer Robinson Owiti has taken issue with Kenya Golf Union (KGU) and reported them to the Sports Tribunal for suspending him from the national team for a year for raising pertinent issues against the union. Owiti a former national team captain had questioned the criteria the union used in picking the national team, arguing that the Golfer Of The Year (GOTY) series was the best way of picking the best amateurs to represent the country at the national level instead of a single qualifying event.
Royal Nairobi Golf Club’s Kenneth Bollo is this year’s winner of the prestigious Uhuru Shield title after recovering in the final round to beat his closest opponent Jay Sandhu by five shots at the par 72 Royal Club. The international player playing off scratch made amends to his poor strat in the competition to rule the roost after 54-holes, posting a total of 221 (75, 74, 72) and in the process picked crucial 24 points towards the Golfer Of The Year (GOTY) rankings.