Kenya’s only ladies professionals Rose Naliaka and Bhavi Shah will be invited for the Ladies European Tour (LET) planned for October 3-6 at Vipingo Ridge, Kilifi.
Officials from Vipingo Ridge, who are at the Magical Kenya Open for benchmarking ahead of the European Ladies Tour, indicated that fast-rising amateur Naomi Wafula, Naliaka’s protégé, will also be invited for historic event. Wafula is only 20.
The Kenyans will be among top 100 ladies professionals who will compete in the event that will be the third Ladies European Tour event in Africa after Investec South African Women's Open in South Africa (March 14-16) and Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco (April 25-28).
With a sponsorship package of 400,000 euros (Sh45.2 million), Kenya’s event will be the second richest on the continent after the Moroccan leg that has a prize fund of 450,000 euros (Sh45.85 million). The South African event has a prize fund of 2,000,000 rands (Sh12 million).
AIG Women's British Open, which will go down from August 1-4 this year at Woburn Golf Club, Marquess in England, is the richest event in the tour with a prize fund of 3,250,000 euros (Sh367 million) followed by Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open due August 8-11 in Scotland with a fund of US$ 1.5m (Sh150 million).
“The Kenyan event will be among the top five events in the Ladies Tour,” said David Jones from Vipingo Ridge.
LET is the equivalent of the ongoing men’s European Tour circuit, the Magical Kenya Open at the Karen Country Club being one of the legs.
Jones said the idea to have the Tour in Kenya was mooted in January this year when some 13 professionals made a stopover in Kenya from Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open in United Arab Emirates on their way to Australia.
Jones said that Cabinet Secretary for Tourism Najib Balala was impressed with the ladies tour as the government agreed to a three-year contract to facilitate the event.
“We shall use the template from Kenya Open for the Ladies event in Vipingo,” said Jones, who sits in the European Tour board. “The event in Karen has set high standards and we want the ladies to emulate.”
Jones noted that even though Kenya has few ladies professionals, the event in Vipingo will help raise the bar high. “The pioneering event will be used as a springboard to bring more women to the game,” said Jones.