The 49th Barclays Kenya Open will this week host celebrated African football legend, Austin “Jay Jay” Okocha.
The Nigerian legend, best known for his skills on the football pitch, will be swapping his boots for clubs to play at the Barclays Pro-Am which will take place on Wednesday at Muthaiga Golf Club.
The Pro-Am, which has traditionally acted as the curtain raiser to the Open, is aimed at giving Kenyan amateurs an opportunity to play with, and learn from, the best in the sport from all over the globe.
This year’s Barclays Kenya Open tees off on Thursday and ends on Sunday. “We are excited to be hosting Jay Jay Okocha at this year’s Barclays Kenya Open.
“His legendary status transcends football and we hope that his participation in this tournament will excite a section of his fan base to take an interest in golf,” said Caroline Ndungu, director, marketing and corporate relations at Barclays Bank, Kenya.
Some 156 golfers drawn from across the globe will battle it out for a total prize money of 220,000 Euros (just over Sh22 million) with the winner taking home 32,000 Euros (about Sh3.5 million).
Kenya will be represented by a contingent of 22 professionals and six amateurs.
Kenya’s hopes are being carried by among others, Stefan Anderson, Greg Snow, Dismas Indiza and Brian Njoroge. Barclays first sponsored the tournament in 2011 to mark its 95th anniversary and then became title sponsor a year later in a four-year deal.
This year’s sponsorship is part of a three-year extension that was made by the bank last year as part of its centennial celebrations making Barclays one of the tournament’s longest running title sponsors.
“For the last 100 years we have been an integral part of the Kenyan social and economic fabric, contributing to multiple aspects of this country’s development,” said Ndung’u.
“As such, our legacy is greatly intertwined with Kenya’s rich heritage and, by the same token, our future is interwoven with that of Kenya.
“This understanding, that when Kenya prospers, we also prosper, is the foundation of our Shared Growth Agenda upon which our sponsorship of the Barclays Kenya Open is anchored.”Besides golf, Okocha will share career tips with university students under the Barclays Ready to Work programme and get to interact with customers during his stay.
Okocha’s football career spanned over 20 years and he was part of the squad that won the African Cup of Nations in 1994 and Olympics in 1996.
He played for the Nigerian team that won the gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games and was a bright spot in the World Cup in France in 1998 playing midfield for Nigeria’s Super Eagles.
The Barclays Kenya Open was founded in 1967 and has been an event on the European based Challenge Tour schedule since 1991.
It was held at the Muthaiga Golf Club annually except in 1968, 2004–2008 and since 2013 when it was held at the Karen Country Club.
It attracts an average of 9,000 people annually and the plan this year is to deliver a deliberate demystification campaign in order to drive more interest in the game.
It has over the years attracted elite golfers from all over the world and is currently the second oldest event under the PGA European Challenge Tour.
The Barclays Kenya Open title has been won by some of Europe’s biggest Ryder Cup stars such as Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam, Ken Brown and Christy O’Connor Jr, as well as future Masters Champion Trevor Immelman of South Africa.
The most successful player is still England’s Maurice Bembridge, who recorded three victories between 1968 and 1979.