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Sunshine tour has brought up some of the best players

Michael Palmer
The winner of the 2018 KCB Karen Masters, Michael Palmer, hitting the ball at the Karen Country Club, Nairobi on July 22, 2018. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Early this year, the green keeper at the Karen Country Club, groomed a thick rough round the place and along the fairways in preparation for the Magical Kenya Open 2019. Luckily for the golf Pros, the rains failed and the rough did not show its teeth. Fast-forward to June 2019 and the rains are now here in full force and so is the rough!

The KCB Karen Masters, part of the Sunshine Tour, will be played at the Karen Country Club from the 27th to 30th June, 2019 and the rough will be lying in wait for the 156 golfers who will take part in this international event. The Sunshine Tour will send in 100 golf professionals, the Professional Golfers of Kenya will field 25 to 30 local golf players and the club will invite Pros from around the East and West African regions – making the KCB Karen Masters a Pan-African and global affair.

Visiting and local professionals will find the Karen course in excellent shape – the fairways are firm and pleasing to the eye, the greens are running true and the rough – well the rough will be rough!

The ongoing rains and ensuing microclimates will make it easier for the green keeping staff to prepare the course for this important professional golf tournament where, once more, our local Pros will have the opportunity to showcase their skills against the visiting South African-based Sunshine Tour players.

The Sunshine Tour, played primarily in SA, Swaziland, Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe ventured north to Kenya courtesy of the Karen Country Club. In 2017 Karen was celebrating 80 years of existence and together with KCB Bank they staged an invitational event that included Kenya’s pros and selected Sunshine Tour Pros.

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In 2018, the event formally joined the Tour, becoming a fully sanctioned member of the Tour that includes events such as the Nedbank Golf Challenge, the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, the South African Open hosted by the City of Johannesburg, the Alfred Dunhill Championship staged at the Leopard Creek Country Club, the Royal Swazi Spa Challenge, the Old Mutual Zimbabwe Open and several other events in Southern Africa.

The Sunshine Tour is responsible for nurturing players such as the legendary Gary Player, a World Golf Hall of Fame member, Booby Locke, Ernie Els and Nick Price who are all members of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

The Tour has also nurtured Major winners including Retief Goosen, Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen and Trevor Immelman. Incidentally, Oosthuizen held the amateur course record at the Karen Country Club for over a decade and Immelman bagged his first professional golf title at the Kenya Open in 2000.

Prolific global players such as Branden Grace, Darren Fichardt, Hennie Otto, Justin Harding, Richard Sterne and others all cut their teeth on the Sunshine Tour. Grace played severally at the Kenya Open and Harding was T2 at the 2019 Magical Kenya Open.

The KCB Karen Masters offers a ZAR2.2m (Sh15 million) total prize kitty and more importantly it offers an avenue to higher echelons of professional golf. A good performance at this event offers any local pro invites to consequent Tour events, many of which are co-sanctioned by the European Tour.

As I commented last week, it would be great for a Kenyan to win the KCB Karen Masters 2019, but I believe it is more important for our contingent of pros and amateurs to firstly compete and crowd the top-20 positions.

Tickets for the KCB Karen Masters are available online, in the meanwhile, the rough is ready to swallow any wayward shots!

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