What a great week for golf in Kenya! After many attempts, the Sunshine Tour is finally in Kenya, courtesy of the Karen Country Club. Making the announcement, the Sunshine Tour Executive Director Selwyn Nathan said that the 2018 Karen Masters from July 19 to July 22 , 2018, will be a fully sanctioned Sunshine Tour event.
The Karen Masters was initially played as part of the 80th anniversary celebrations at the Karen Country Club. Following the success of that inaugural event the club elected to have the event annually and even went further and sought partnership with the Sunshine Tour.
With a total prize fund of US$150,000 (Sh15.2m or Zar 2m), the 2018 Karen Masters compares well with most events on the Sunshine Tour played predominantly in South Africa. Other events on the Tour are staged in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Swaziland —this will be the first time the Tour tees it up this far North.
Initially named the South African Tour, it was rebranded to broaden its appeal across the African continent and hence strengthen its place on the table of the International Federation of PGA Tours, which include the US PGA, the European PGA Tour, the Japan Golf Tour, the PGA Tour of Australasia and the Asian Tour.
Currently, the Sunshine Tour hosts six events in partnership with the European Tour including - Nedbank Golf Challenge, the Africa Open, the Alfred Dunhill Championship, the Joburg Open, the Tshwane Open and the South African Open. The Sunshine Tour also partners with the European Tour and Asian Tour to host the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open.
This development now means that Kenya will be home to two international professional golf events, the 50 year-old Kenya Open, part of the European Challenge Tour and the Karen Masters, part of the Sunshine Tour. So which event will bring the European Tour first and fast to Kenyan soil?
Allow me to digress and string two diverse thought processes to make an important point. Firstly, I have often commented on the Kenya Golf Union Golfer of the Year events, and I have repeatedly asked what the future of these events is.
I have also questioned the role of clubs in progressing the KGU GOTY events. I have asked, does your home club have a strategic plan for its GOTY event? Does Sigona have a plan for the Sigona Bowl? Does Muthaiga have a plan for the Muthaiga Open and does Nyali have a plan for the Nyali Open?
Secondly, with regards to hosting of the Barclays Kenya Open, I have often asked clubs, why not raise your own funds, start your own event? Why not upgrade your GOTY event into a regional amateur event of note? And maybe grow it into a Karen Masters in the future?
For clubs looking to “host” the Karen Masters in 2019 or 2020, kindly note, this is the exclusive property of the Karen Country Club. Create your own property.
And this is a challenge to Kenya’s top golf clubs. Where are your Karen Masters? Where is your ability to organise a top class golf event and sustainably raise the funds necessary to run such an event? Golf clubs cannot be defined by the latest shower heads and the most stylish bar stools, they can only be defined by great golf courses and impeccable golf events.
So to the homes of golf and the oldest clubs in Kenya I say, start with your GOTY events, upgrade them, grow them into better tournaments and with some luck you too will announce a Karen Masters of your own.
Karen rode on the back of the Barclays Kenya Open to host the inaugural Karen Masters 2017, you too can ride on their backs in 2018 – speak to Karen, speak to the Sunshine Tour, raise Sh10m, offer an event before the Karen Masters of the Barclays Kenya Open 2018 – make a plan.
The Karen Country Club has led the way, no surprises there, the challenge is now on other clubs to follow suit. Golf is the winner.