The race for the coveted eight Magical Kenya Open slots resumes this week after a month-long breather as close to 50 pros slug it out at the picturesque Great Rift Valley Lodge from tomorrow. The Naivasha tournament will be the sixth event in the Tour’s 2020/21 10 round series.
All the top-guns are expected to line up for tomorrow’s start in a bid to bag the crucial points towards qualification. With the series just passed the halfway mark, Greg Snow and Dismas Indiza have opened a healthy lead atop the Order of Merit following a consistent run of form over the last two seasons. Crucial wins at the Limuru and Vetlab rounds late last year saw Snow and Indiza cement their dominance and are almost assured of their places at the Magical Kenya show scheduled for March at Karen Country Club.
Man of the moment Zimbabwe’s Robson Chinhoi is all but assured of clinching one of the two tickets reserved for foreign pros playing on the Safari Tour. A convincing win at the Uganda Open coupled with another victory at Royal Golf Club late last year saw Chinhoi storm into the fourth position a head of his closest challengers for the foreigners slot, who are not even featuring in the top 10.
The remaining four legs- Naivasha, Nyali, Muthaiga and Karen- are expected to be fiercely competitive as all the local pros within the top 20 bracket stand a realistic chance of making the Magical Kenya cut. The qualification arithmetic is rather complicated as consistency and not form is key to making the cut. This follows the decision by Safari Tour to include points accumulated in the 2018/19 and 2019/20 rounds in the final tally.
The Season one performance accounts for 10%, Season Two 20% and Season Three 70% towards the final grading. The points roll-over system seems to have worked in favour of Snow, Indiza, Simon Ngige and Eric Ooko who have a healthy haul of points for their consistent performance over the last two years.
New-boy Samuel Njoroge is swimming upstream since he only turned pro late last year, starting on a clean slate. Undeterred, Njoroge has muscled his way to the high table and is currently placed seventh in the Order of Merit having accumulated the second highest points in the current season behind Chinhoi. Watch out for a photo-finish as David Wakhu, Ngige, Ooko, CJ Wangai, Edwin Mudanyi and Justus Madoya play for their lives as they strive to remain in the top 10 over the remaining rounds.
The rules for the remaining rounds have been slightly altered to accommodate the demands made by players. A players’ mutiny threatened to mar the Tour as players protested against the bonus scheme. “The board did consider the requests and made some resolutions that are pleasing to the players. Some, like the removal of the 30% bonus retention that was scrapped at the Sigona leg of Safari Tour. The players will also be allowed to choose one from their ranks to sit on the Safari Tour steering committee. There are other requests that are still being worked on and will be made public in due course,” Vincent Wang’ombe, Kenya Open Golf Limited General Manager, confirmed.
Unlike the two opening seasons, there has been a notable improvement on the winning scores. Save for the Limuru opening round of the 2020/21 season, the winners of all the events have carded an under-par score. “The quality of the game has been much better. There are some players whose game unfortunately seems to have suffered during the shutdown but all in all, we are seeing some good quality golf despite the pandemic. We are still not at the level of the Sunshine Tour or European Tour pros but the quality of our golf is getting better,” Wang’ombe observed.
ORDER OF MERIT
Greg Snow 234
Dismas Indiza 224
David Wakhu 193
Robson Chinhoi 193
Simon Ngige 178
Eric Ooko 176
Samuel Njoroge 170
C J Wangai 166
Edwin Mudanyi 130
Justus Madoya 108
The following is the breakdown of the money won by professional golfers in the last two seasons
2018-2019 Season – Kshs 10,259,375
2019-2020 Season – Kshs 16,091,749 (7 events in Kenya, 4 in Uganda)