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European Tour sets stage for thrilling golfing year in Kenya

Sebastian Soderberg
Sebastian Soderberg of Sweden tees off during the Barclays Kenya Open Golf Tournament at Muthaiga Golf Club on March 25, 2018. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO 

Happy new golfing year ladies and gentlemen, it is finally 2019. And what a year to be a golfer in Kenya! The Kenya Open Golf Championship will be played from March 14-17 at the Karen Country Club as part of the main European Tour. This has to be the most exciting golfing, indeed sporting news of 2019!

OK, perhaps Harambee Stars going to the Africa Cup of Nations and winning maybe just a degree more exciting or Eliud Kipchoge breaking his marathon world record in London in April may inject a little bit more buzz all around, but having the main European Tour in Kenya, in this part of the continent is great news.

Why should news of the European Tour grab your attention? For one, the calibre of players who will be coming to Kenya for this event will be at the very top of the global ladder. Members of the European Tour include the likes of Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els, Patrick Reed, Tommy Fleetwood, Aaron Rai, Louis Oosthuizen, Justin Thomas, Braden Grace, Henrik Stenson, Shubankar Sharma, Matt Wallace among others. And whilst not all the top players will choose to come and play in the Kenya Open, those who do come will be from the very top shelves of the golfing world. Secondly, the Kenya Open will be transmitted live around the globe to more than 490 million homes.

The impact expected from this live transmission on Kenya’s brand image globally and more specifically on our golf tourism offering will be high.

Later on the year, in July, the Karen Masters, which is now a full member of the Sunshine Tour, will be held, and again, this rapidly growing event will put Kenya back on the golfing map.

By the way, and this is a story for another day, Kenya’s top golf resort, Vipingo Ridge will very shortly be staging a top-class invitation ladies event featuring some of the top names from around the world and who play on the very apex of the Ladies European Tour. For those doubting it, let me repeat that — in early February, the Baobab Course at Vipingo Ridge will host an Invitation ProAm event bringing together some of the world’s top lady golfers. If your wife, daughter, sister or mother plays golf, I suggest you call Vipingo Ridge right now and book a slot or prepare divorce papers — the choice is clearly yours.

This ladies Invitation will be live across some channels globally and again this will turn the eyes of the golfing fraternity to Kenya increasing our brand value and hopefully driving golf tourism numbers.

Wasn’t lying when I told you this would be a good year for golf was I?

More good news? Why not! This weekend, at the Muthaiga Golf Club, the fifth leg of the Safari Tour will be held. On offer, a total prize kitty of Sh3 million is three times more than what has been offered in the first four events. This follows the entry of Barclays Bank of Kenya and Kenya Breweries through their Johnnie Walker Blue Label brand as partners to the Safari Tour.

The two firms have pledged similar amounts to the sixth and final Safari Tour event which will be held at the Karen Country Club next month just a few weeks before the Kenya Open Golf Championship.

In total, Kenya’s local professionals, and indeed Pros from Uganda and Tanzania, will have played for a total Sh10 million at the end of this first season of the Safari Tour 2018/19 season.

The 2019/20 season of the Safari Tour will kick off in April and with increased prize monies, the level of professional golf in Kenya and East Africa will no doubt improve.

It is a good year for golf! Go play.

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