The Safari Tour, the only professional golf tour in East Africa, will tee off tomorrow at the Nyali Golf and Country Club. This second season of the Safari Tour retains the format from the inaugural season - four rounds of golf and a ProAm round, but now includes events in Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania.
Speaking at the launch of the second season, Kenya Open Golf Ltd chairman Peter Kanyago said the Safari Tour was important for development of golf in Kenya and the region.
“When we mooted the idea of a professional golf tour in Kenya, we were asked by President Uhuru Kenyatta to include our junior golfers of either gender, our elite amateur golfers and to ensure that we invite and include our brothers from the East African region. We have been in discussions with the golf leadership in Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania and we are delighted to announce that the Safari Tour will now be played in those nations,” he said.
"Our primary focus with the Safari Tour is to give our local and regional golf professionals an opportunity to compete under championship conditions on a regular basis and by so doing build their skills as they prepare to compete at the Magical Kenya Open, the Uganda Open, the Rwanda Open and other Pro events in South Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe."
The 2019/2020 calendar now includes seven events in Kenya, three in Uganda and one each in Rwanda and Tanzania.
"We have made some changes to this second season of the Tour; we have introduced two new venues in Kenya, the Royal Nairobi Golf Club and the Great Rift Valley Golf Club in Naivasha. Both Royal and Great Rift are championship 18-hole courses that have the potential to host international championships," Kanyago added. "We will travel to Uganda for the Uganda Open, the Kitante Open and the Entebbe Open and to Rwanda and Tanzania for their respective Opens, which will now be played as part of the Safari Tour."
Expansion of the tour into East Africa brings to life an idea that has long been discussed among the East African golf unions. According to the Safari Tour Tournament Director, Patrick Obath, an expanded Tour will have many benefits.
“By bringing East Africa together, the Safari Tour provides golf professionals based in the region a platform to compete on equal footing and a clear cut rationale to qualify for the various Open tournaments in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda," he said.
“Our joint vision is to grow the game in the region under one umbrella and to coordinate our efforts to provide more playing opportunities for our pros, our top amateurs and our junior golfers. And what we are doing is not new, the Sunshine Tour in Southern Africa, the MENA tour in the Middle East and the Africa Tour in West Africa are all played across borders harnessing regional strengths, building regional talent from a home base."
All of the Safari Tour events in Kenya will have a guaranteed prize fund of $10,000 whilst the Uganda Open will offer a $50,000 prize fund making it the richest fixture on the 2019/2020 season.
The Rwanda Open will have a prize fund of $30,000 whilst the Kitante, Entebbe, Kigali and Tanzania events will also boost a $10,000 minimum prize fund.
“We are launching this second season with a base prize fund of $180,000 across 12 events and over seven months - an average of about $25,700 per month with the winner on average taking home over $4,000 per event," Obath added.
"And whilst we are not yet at the level we need to be, this is a good start and we believe that it will give our professionals the motivation to prepare and play better."
The event at Nyali starts with a golf clinic today at which the professional golfers will offer free lessons primarily to junior golfers but also to members of Nyali. The ProAm takes place tomorrow and the professional event proper tees of from Sunday to Wednesday.