Two of Kenya’s leading professionals Greg Snow and Simon Ngige shared the first round lead, as the ninth leg of the 2019/20 Safari Tour got underway in chilly conditions following the early morning rains at the par 72 Sigona Golf Club course on Sunday.
Both Snow, from Muthaiga and Thika-based Ngige shot two under par 70, to claim a narrow one shot lead from Zimbabwe’s Robson Chinhoi. Of the two leaders, Snow took off well, picking up two birdies at the second and third holes though ended up with a level par 36 in the first nine after dropping shots at the fourth and the ninth.
He however played a clean back nine that included birdies at the 11th and 17th to sign for two under par for the day and share the lead with Ngige who is still chasing his first win in the current tour. Ngige started the day with a bogey at the par four-first hole, though made some good recovery by rolling in two birdie putts at the third and a late one at the ninth.
It was however his eagle three at the 15th and two successive birdies at the 16th and 18th which managed to cancel two early bogeys at the back nine’s 10th and 13th and a late one at the home green which saw him tie with the on-form Snow.
“It was a difficult day, with the conditions of strong wind and rain at the same time in the morning, so I had to keep my patience all through. Generally, I played very conservatively in the prevailing condition, since it's very easy to blow yourself out of the event in such a situation, so I tried to really grind and stick in there,’’ said Ngige. “Staying patient was the key today and keeping to the game plan. There are three more rounds to go which requires consistent play, I should get it done.’’
Meanwhile, Zimbabwean Chinhoi, who is chasing the two regional slots reserved for players from outside Kenya, like Ngige, made an early bogey at the first hole and two late ones at the 16th and 17th.
However, four birdies at the back nine starting at the 10th and 11th and two late ones at the 15th and 18th saw him finish in the under par bracket (71) leaving hot-charging Erick Ooko of Royal Nairobi by just a shot.
Vet Lab’s Mathew Omondi also wound up the opening round on the leaderboard after posting one over par 73, with Entebbe Open champion Justus Madoya from the Great Rift Valley Golf Resort leading a group of six on two over par 74. The six include amateur Mutahi Kibugu who is likely to play in the Magical Kenya Open via the Junior Golf Foundation Order of Merit depending on how many slots will be available for the juniors in the Open.
It was now however a good start for the home pros where Mohit Mediratta on three over par 75 was the best. The other two John Wangai and Sujan Shah posted six over par 78 and they have some work to do to bring themselves back in the hunt for cash and points towards the Magical Kenya Open.
Monday’s second round of the event being sponsored by Magical Kenya, Absa Group and Johnnie Walker starts at 8am.