The long wait is over. Professional golfers in Kenya and the East and Central Africa region will tee it up from later this month following confirmation of the Safari Tour 2021/22 season dates by Kenya Open Golf Limited, KOGL.
This brings to an end a six-month period of uncertainty that has seen professional golfers starved of action. Fears were rife that season four would not take place as KOGL engaged in behind the scenes manoeuvres shopping for a sponsor to bankroll the Tour.
“This is great news for all professional golfers. I can assure you all pros on the Tour are very excited. We are greatful for yet another opportunity to utilize our skills,” said CJ Wangai, captain Professional Golfers of Kenya, PGK.
The 2021/22 schedule has eight events lined up spread across the country- Naivasha (Great Rift Lodge), Limuru, Nairobi (Sigona, Vetlab, Muthaiga & Karen) and Mombasa Nyali & Leisure Lodge). The Royal Nairobi Golf Club round has been dropped from the 2021/22 calendar.
Unlike in the previous seasons, the events have been split into two phases. The first four events will be held back-to-back over a period of four weeks- September/October, while the second half of the Tour will feature another back-to-back period spanning January to February 2022.
“The schedule is very tight and will be very taxing on us. It would have been good to spread some events over to November but given the limited number of tournaments, we welcome KOGL’s decision,” said Wangai.
The organizers are expected to announce the monetary outlay plans next week which will see the prize money structure unveiled plus the qualification criteria to Magical Kenya Open set for March next year. The 2019/2020 Tour had a prize fund of Kshs 16 million across 11 events up from Kshs 10 million in the previous season.
“We are really looking forward to the announcement. We are optimistic that the prize money will be enhanced and hopefully introduction of more rewards for players’ exceptional play,” Wangai noted.
KOGL has co-opted a players’ representative in the 2021/22 organizing committee to forestall misunderstandings which led to a mutiny last season. The players on the Tour are represented by CJ Wangai. During the standoff the players demanded the prize money per event be increased to Kshs 3 million from Kshs 1 million and a seat on the Safari Tour Sub Committee.
Going by the trends at the tail end of last season, the 2021/22 is expected to record an increase in the number of foreign pros. There has been a notable rise in the number of pros from Central Africa led by last year’s runner up Robinson Chinhoi. Interest from West Africa remains muted though with only Nigerian Andrew Odoh the regular participant.
“Granted that other Tours around the continent are yet to take off, Safari Tour will for sure attract many foreigners. This is very good for the local pros as we get to test ourselves against very good players. Furthermore, it guarantees organizers and golf fans a bigger field,” said Wangai.
Dismas Indiza won the 2020/21 title ahead of Zimbabwe’s Chinhoi.