Jay Sandhu kept a cool head to win the Kenya Amateur Strokeplay championship 2020 ending a long trophy drought stretching back over 15 years. The Royal Golf Club player carded one over par 73 today for a gross score of +3 for the week, seven shots ahead of joint runners up Mutahi Kibugu and Adel Balala.
Starting off nervously today, Sandhu dropped two shots on the opening hole before dropping a further two on the third and fourth holes for Kibugi to cut his lead to just one shot. Two birdies on the seventh and ninth holes helped to calm nerves as Kibugu inexplicably double-bogeyed the fourth hole.
“Though having a five shot lead coming in to the final round gave me some cushion, it also destabilized me quite a lot. To lose a five shot lead is a big shame and this kept playing in my head. After dropping four shots in the opening four holes, my knees started wobbling a bit as I was surely opening the door for the chasing pack,” Sandhu reflected.
A calm round on the back nine, including two birdies on the 12th hole and 18th hole was enough to erase an inconsequential bogey on the par three 17th hole for a comfortable one under par 35, crowning a successful week that has seen Sandhu stay on top of the leaderboard for three rounds, having lost the lead briefly to Balala on the second day.
“It has been a very unpredictable week. I started quite badly scrambling through the opening rounds. To emerge the champion is awesome,” an elated Sandhu said.
Despite losing to Sandhu by a seven shot-margin, youngsters Kibugu and Balala put in a strong performance beating several seasoned amateur golfers. The two youngsters have been a permanent fixture atop the leaderboard and deserve today’s podium finish. In fact Kibugu was almost causing an upset today when he narrowed down Sandhu’s lead to just two shots in the opening three holes, only to be thrown off balance by a costly double bogey on the fourth hole. A flawless level par round on the back nine was way too late to upstage Sandhu.
“I will take a lot of positives from this championship. I started so badly in the opening two rounds, so to rally back and get in contention is a great achievement. I fought hard and gave it my all. Overall, I have had a great week. I now shift my focus to Safari Tour,” Kibugu said.
Today’s victory completes Sandhu’s quest for a clean sweep of the Kenya Golf Union “majors”. Despite a colourful career that saw him crowned junior champion and Kenya Amateur Matchplay champion, he had never won the strokeplay event, finishing runner up on several occasions.
Following the victory, Sandhu will make a comeback at Kenya Open after a 15 year absence. He debuted the tournament as a junior champion in 1997 and followed it with another appearance in 2005 as the country’s top amateur player. Though he did not make the cut on both occasions, Sandhu has fond memories of the event and will be looking to better his performance this time round.
“Honestly I was under too much pressure at that time. I am now going into Magical Kenya Open just to have fun. I will just stick to my game and aim to at least make the cut,” he said.
To prepare for the event scheduled for Karen Country Club in March 2021, Sandhu will compete in several Safari Tour events to gauge his game against local pros, build confidence and gain match-fitness. He will be joined by Vetlab’s Isaac Makokha, who bagged the ticket to Magical Kenya after defeating Sandhu last month in the final of the Kenya Amateur Matchplay championship.
Leaderboard after day 4
Aggregate Gross Scores
Jay Sandhu +3
Mutahi Kibugu +10
Adel Balala +10
Dennis Maara +15
Kevin Juma +15
Simon Karari +15
Peter Rimui +22
John Lejirma +24
Victor Joseph +25
Simon Njogu +26