Curtains come down on the 2020/21 Safari Tour when the ninth leg of the series gets underway tomorrow at the Karen Country Club. Billed as the richest round in the series, the winner of the Karen leg will walk home with Kshs 375,000 and a 75 points haul in the tight race atop the Order of Merit leaderboard.
The cash bounty and overall title aside, it will be a do-or-die battle for nine players as they push for the remaining three Magical Kenya Open slots.
The local pros are entitled to 12 slots, earned through qualification on the Safari Tour while another three slots are reserved for non-Kenyan pros participating in the series. Already Greg Snow, Dismas Indiza, Simon Ngige, David Wakhu, Eric Ooko, Samuel Njoroge, CJ Wangai and Jastas Madoya have qualified after amassing enough points and sit comfortably above the cutline. Zimbabwe’s Robson Chinhoi has also clinched the foreigners slot leaving his compatriots to scramble for the remaining slot.
Going in to tomorrow’s round lying third in the Order of Merit, Chinhoi will be seeking to continue his dominance over Kenyans. The Zimbabwean has won three events- Royal, Uganda Open and Nyali- this season and has raked in the highest number of points- and money- despite missing the opening event at Limuru. His third position overall placing on the Order of Merit is as a result of the Tour Organizers decision to include points garnered in the previous two seasons in the final tally, a move that disadvantaged Chinhoi as he didn’t play in the 2018/19 season. He will be going for an outright win at Karen to enhance his chances of being declared the season champion.
Despite having an unusually quiet season, Greg Snow is on course to defend the Safari Tour title he clinched last year as he’s currently perched on top of the Order of Merit table. Interestingly, Snow has only managed one win- the Limuru opening round- this season. However a couple of podium finishes and a series of top 10 finishes have ensured the Muthaiga player remains the top ranked pro in the country. A decision to boycott the Sigona round in solidarity with striking colleagues, set him back on the money list. A win at Karen should set the stage for Snow to aspire for bigger things at the Magical Kenya Open tournament.
Veteran Dismas Indiza completes the top three positions on the Order of Merit after an underwhelming season that has seen him win only once on the Tour- the Vetlab leg. After missing the cut at Limuru on the opening day, Indiza has been relatively in fine form and only missed out on the Muthaiga title after losing out in a nail-biting playoff. Arguably Kenya’s most consistent pro, Indiza continues to confound many with his never-say-die attitude. Already guaranteed of a place at Kenya Open, Indiza will relish taking on Chinhoi at Karen, a course that he seems to have mastered pretty well.
The stage is set for the qualification slugfest which will end in premium tears for six players. Edwin Mudanyi, Mathew Omondi and Jacob Okello are currently occupying the tenth, eleventh and twelfth positions respectively and will be hard pressed to record a decent result to stay ahead of the chasing pack.
They will be wary of the threat posed by Mohit Mediratta, Mathew Wahome, Riz Charania, Geoffrey Makokha, Tony Omuli and Kopan Timbe. Mediratta enhanced his chances of qualifying when he won the Muthaiga leg last week. The South Africa golf academy graduate will be hoping that the win will give him the much-needed momentum for a strong finish to guarantee him the coveted appearance at Kenya Open. He has not had a good season, only managing to pick up points in three events.
The tussle for the remaining foreign pro slot will also be tense and intriguing with more than four players’ fancying their chances. Uganda’s Philip Kasozi has been ever-present on the Tour this season and enjoys a slim head start against the chasing pack of Andrew Odoh of Nigeria, compatriot Abbey Bagalana and Alloys Nsabimana from Rwanda.
The impressive Dayne Moore from Zambia will rue why he joined the fray late having put up a strong showing at Muthaiga last week where he finished fourth on his debut. A win may present him an opportunity to feature at Kenya Open. Having missed six events, Odoh will also be pushing his lack at Karen. The Nigerian had a good outing at Nyali and Muthaiga and may just sneak through if he registers a top 10 finish at Karen.
Four leading amateurs will also be in the mix as they prepare for Magical Kenya. Strokeplay champion Jay Sandhu, Matchplay champion Isaac Makokha and 2019 strokeplay champion Paul Muchangi will test their prowess against the seasoned pros to gauge their readiness for Kenya Open.
Of the trio, Muchangi has been active on the Kenya Amateur Golf Championship scene while Sandhu had a fairly good outing at last week’s Safari Tour leg where he even enjoyed the overnight leadership on the opening day. Makokha has had a quiet time since being crowned champion in September last year.
With all these permutations in play, as the 70 players gather at Karen tomorrow for the ninth leg of Safari Tour at Karen, the event is no doubt expected to be a blockbuster!
2020/21 ORDER OF MERIT
1 Greg Snow 322.2
2 Dismas Indiza 309.5
3 Robson Chinhoi 292.1
4 Simon Ngige 268.9
5 David Wakhu 260
6 Ooko Erick Obura 225.2
7 Samuel Njoroge 191.4
8 John Wangai 190
9 Jastas Madoya 182.0
10 Edwin Inana Asuza 170.3
11 Mathew Omondi 135.9
12 Jacob Okello 125.3
13 Mohit Mediratta 112.7
14 Matthew Wahome 108
15 Rizwan Charania 105.2
16 Geoffrey Makokha 101.2
17 Deo Akope 99.2
18 Anthony Juma 97.8
19 Phillip Kasozi 92.5
20 Kopan Timbe 82.1 21