Twenty-six sub-par rounds were registered at the just concluded Safari Tour season opener at Sigona marking an unprecedented low scoring in the Tour’s history. A total of 18 players managed the feat, the highlight of the tournament being Edwin Mudanyi’s superb eight under par 64 show in the third round.
This is an incredible transformation from last season when some tournaments –Limuru and Nyali- were won with a score of +1. In fact, the players staged a mutiny last year demanding review of the bonus payment system after it emerged the three under-par threshold was proving to be a tall order.
So what has changed?
Kenya Open Golf Limited, KOGL, the organizers of the Tour have introduced a bonus pool to reward any player who posts a sub-par round regardless of his finishing position. Under the scheme, 20% of the Kshs 2 million purse is set aside for exceptional performance. At the Sigona round 18 players shared the Kshs 400,000 bounty.
“The new bonus scheme is really a game changer. We expect to see even better scores in the upcoming events,” observes Vincent Wangómbe KOGL General Manager.
Apart from cash incentives, Wangómbe points to the growing competition in the Tour, thanks to the continued influx of foreign players. The 10 foreign pros who featured at the Sigona leg put up a good fight, with two-Visitor Mapwanya and Robson Chinhoi- finishing T5. Malawi’s Paul Chidale and Zimbabwe debutante Tafara Mpofu were in the top three positions on the opening day.
“We have also noticed that the local players are now preparing much better ahead of every event. The heightened competition has instilled a lot of mental and physical focus in the players,” said Wangómbe.
But could the change in fortunes be also as a result of easy course set-up? One of the complaints raised by the players last year was the “unprofessional” setting up of the course with difficult pin positions. “We demand review of course set up procedures which has been bordering on illegal and done without the consultation or involvement of any PGK member or Safari Tour player,” the players wrote in the petition.
KOGL has yielded to the demand and included a players’ representative-CJ Wangai- in the event planning team. Wangómbe however says consultations are limited to the players’ welfare and the technical aspects relating to course set-up remain unchanged.
“We stick to the Kenya Open criteria when setting up the course for Safari Tour events. For every nine holes, we ensure that three are difficult, three have medium difficulty while another three are set up relatively easy. So the set-up is done very professionally in line with international best-practice,” assured Wangómbe who also doubles up as the Tour Tournament Director.
It remains to be seen if the players will carry the momentum from Sigona to the Tour’s second leg scheduled for next week at Vetlab Sports Club.