Save for a couple of regional titles won, Kenyan golfers generally performed below par on the international scene in 2017.
And it all begun at Karen Country Club on Sunday March, 19, where the par 72 course hosted the two-round Karen Masters to celebrate the club’s 80th anniversary.
The tournament attracted 40 players from the European Challenge Tour and 22 local professionals who were tuning up for the Barclays Kenya Open
However, it was only Greg Snow, among the locals, who put up a fight to eventually finish fourth on seven under par 137, five shots behind Dutchman Will Besseling who walked away with the title after two back to back six under par 66 for 132.
ONLY THREE MADE CUT
Having warmed up in a more competitive event, the local professionals were hence expected to put up a good show at Muthaiga, venue for the 2017 Barclays Kenya Open.
Only three players — Simon Ngige, Dismas Indiza and Riz Charania — made the second round cut in the European Challenge Tour event won by England’s Aaron Rai with 17 under par 267 after a brave fight.
Rai, whose mother was born in Kenya, fired rounds of 67, 66, 69 and a finishing 65.
Ngige had given Kenyan golf enthusiasts high hopes following his opening round of four under 67.
NOT GOOD ENOUGH
But he slipped back to a 73 and 71 in the second and third and although he made an effort by finishing with three under 68, his aggregate of five under par 279 was still not good enough to earn him the title which has eluded the Kenyans since the event was started in 1967.
Overall Ngige finish tied on 34th, earning only 1,496 Euros (Sh170,000).
“I gave it my best shot although my best was not good enough to take me to the top, but I’m not giving up on it,” said Ngige after the Open.
Indiza finished in 54th tie on one under par 283 and Charania was further down in 60th with level par 284.
The pros went on to play in the Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania Open.
In Uganda, Zimbabwean Stephen Ferreira beat Dismas Indiza by three shots with 281 while another Kenyan David Wakhu tied fourth on 289.
Back to the local scene, Simon Ngige claimed the Diani Beach Masters at Leisure Lodge in South Coast before the pros travelled to Kiligolf in Arusha for that country’s Open where the best the Kenyans was a joint seond by Indiza and David Wakhu.
But at least Kenya’s amateur Edwin Mudanyi managed to claim the amateur title after tying with Tanzania’s Victor Joseph. The pro title went to Ryan Cains of Zimbabwe on 291.
“The course was great though I was not able to produce the kind of scores I wanted to be able to win the event,” said Indiza. He later on, however, managed to clinch the Rwanda Open, which attracted a small field, to wind up the season.
“I played solid golf throughout the event and managed to make many birdies though the course was tight. It really needed one to shoot straight to score,” said Indiza after the Rwanda Open.
Indiza, who said he is still searching for a sponsor to play in the Barclays Kenya Open and other events in the Sunshine Tour, said he will be spending most of his time in Nairobi to get used to the greens at Muthaiga and probably Karen.
Meanwhile, two of the Kenyan pros, Stefan Andersen and Mohit Mediratta, both based in South Africa played in a number of events in the Sunshine Tour.
Although both are yet to break through, Andersen managed to finish the year in 58th place in the Sunshine Tour, an indication that, he is not far from breaking through.
On the amateur level, Mudanyi’s performance in Tanzania was the best for an individual Kenyan amateur as Alfred Nandwa who has since then turned professional, finished ninth in the individual category of the 2017 Africa Amateur Team Golf Championship held at the Elephant Hills Golf Resort in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, where Nandwa shot 295 gross.
Mudanyi who was among the four national team players finished in 28th.
Back home, Mudanyi went on to clinch the Kenya Amateur Golf Championship (KAGC) series Order of Merit with a massive 500.8 points.
The Vet Lab Sports Club player, who is ranked 523rd in the world, thus booked a place in next year’s (2018) Barclays Kenya Open to be held once again at Muthaiga in March.
“I am going to work on my short game in preparation for the 2018 season but more or so, the Barclays Kenya Open now that I have qualified for it,” said Mudanyi after the grand finale of the KAGC series at Nyali where he however failed to defend his title though he had accumulated enough points to earn the Order of Merit title.
Teamwise, Kenya’s moment of glory came in the international test match against Uganda for the Victoria Cup where Kenya beat Uganda in Entebbe to retain the title.
Kenya, will host the 2018 event at a yet to be named venue. Kenya, was also able to clinch the East Africa Challenge Cup by beating Uganda in the event held in Dar es Salaam Tanzania.
Uganda had won in 2014, 2015 and tied with Kenya in 2016 in Ethiopia.The East Africa Challenge Cup, to be converted into Africa Region Four, featured Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia.
GIRLS' TEAM THIRD
The going was, however, tough for Kenya in the other international events including the All Africa Junior Championship at Royal Harare Golf Club where Kenya finished well below South Africa and hosts Zimbabwe.
The Kenyan girls team finished third.
This was followed by the Africa Region Five championship at Nkana Golf Club in Kitwe, Zambia, where though Kenya qualified for the ‘A’ division, their hope of meeting South Africa in the final dashed by hosts Zambia.
Kenya eventually finished fourth after losing to Zimbabwe as South Africa won both the ‘A’ and ‘B’ divisions titles.
“We did not give it our best as we lost again Zambia who were not better than us.
“We just did not play as per the plan, we will need to work on our short game,” said national team coach John van Liefland after the tournament.
Well, the did manage to work on the short game after the April event in Zambia, hence was able to retain the Victoria Cup and clinch the East Africa Challenge Cup.
It was, however, a disaster in the Africa Amateur Team Golf Championship at the Elephant Hills Zimbabwe in October where Kenya’s eighth place finish was probably the worse, having finished second to South Africa in the 2015 at Limuru Country Club.
With the team captain Nandwa having joined the paid ranks, national coach van Liefland will have to go back to the drawing board to not only find Nandwa’s replacement. but to also get a winning formula for the 2018 assignments.