Tournament favourite Greg Snow returned a score of 74 in today’s final round to win the opening round of the Safari Tour 2020 season at Limuru Country Club. After stealthily climbing to the top of the leaderboard following a slow start on Sunday, Snow held on to the one shot overnight lead to wrap up the tournament at +1. The performance earned him a cool Kshs 105,000 and 50 points in the road to Magical Kenya Open league.
A late charge by debutant Samuel Njoroge saw the newly admitted pro finish second after shooting level par today to close at +2 tied with veteran Rizwan Charania. Early pacesetter Ganeev Giddie failed to rediscover his opening rounds mojo and settled for fifth place one shot behind Robinson Owiti.
Effects of the seven month lay-off occasioned by suspension of sporting activities in the country were evident as players struggled with match fitness returning relatively high scores. After a slow start on day one when the average for the round stood at 74, there was a slight improvement on day two at 73 before matters went north as the average play rose to 76 on day three and day four. Just like witnessed in yesterday’s round, only two players Charania and Hesbon Kutwa managed an identical 71.
The inconsistency was fully played out in today’s final round as Snow had a topsy turvy round that saw him make five bogeys, a double bogey, seven pars, four birdies and one eagle. “I felt really rusty throughout the four days. I had problems off the tee, missing fairways on a number of occasions. The condition of the course was also challenging as we experienced uncharacteristic high temperatures and strong whirl winds. Regardless of the score, it just feels good to be back,” Snow explained.
The Limuru round has provided Snow the much-needed head start as the Safari Tour embarks on the remaining events in the grueling 10 rounds calendar. Snow will be hoping to better last year’s performance which saw him win five out of the 12 rounds.
The highlight of the Limuru tournament was undoubtedly the arrival of former top amateur Sam Njoroge. After prolonging his stay at amateur level and only turning pro last week after reaching an unprecedented +4 handicap, Njoroge did not disappoint on his debut. Rounds of 76, 68, 74 and 72 saw him walk home Kshs 63,000 richer tied for second on his first money-chasing assignment. “Well, it’s unbelievable but I can assure you I was so set for this event. I was slightly let down by my putter but I have really enjoyed playing at this level. This is where I belong,” an elated Njoroge explained.
Action now moves to Royal Nairobi Golf Club where the pros will converge on Monday next week for the second round of the Safari Tour 2020 season. The event was started by Kenya Open Golf Limited, KOGL, two years ago as a developmental tour to give local professional golfers an opportunity to sharpen their skills in the run up to Magical Kenya Open. According to Vincent Wang’ombe, KOGL General Manager, the tour is also meant to demystify the game of golf by introducing junior golfers to the game while at the same time teaching golf club administrators the right way to run competitions.
Citing fatigue as one of the reasons that might have contributed to the high scores in Limuru, Wang’ombe is optimistic that players will turn up sharper and fitter in the subsequent rounds. “We have seen our golfers playing better golf by virtue of getting an opportunity to compete against each other. During the first season, very few tournaments were won with under par scores. This however changed in the second season. We are therefore seeing our players getting better. The biggest challenge in Limuru was the requirement that all players had to self-caddy. Though this unprecedented action negatively affected performance, we are committed to fully complying with the Covid-19 protocols in sports,” said Wang’ombe.
The Tour has also attracted members from other countries namely Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Nigeria, Senegal and Zimbabwe. KOGL is optimistic that more players from around the continent will join Safari Tour for it to be recognized as an Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points event.
Players on the Tour pay an annual membership fee of Kshs 10,000 and a further Kshs 3,000 per tournament. Players who fail to take up membership are charged Kshs 5,000 per event.