The government has taken over as title sponsor of the 2019 Kenya Open Golf Championship slated for March 14-17 at Karen Country Club.
Consequently, the tournament will be known as ‘Magical Kenya Open Golf Championship.’ Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala yesterday said during the launch of the tournament that the government had set aside 2.2 million Euros (Sh253 million) for the tournament that is now part of the main European Tour.
Balala noted the government has lived up to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s pledge last year to double the tournament’s sponsorship so as to improve its status. Last year, the tournament, at Muthaiga Golf Club in Nairobi, celebrated its 50th Anniversary.
Barclays Bank of Kenya that have been the title sponsor for the last nine years will now be part of other subsidiary firms facilitating the event that is set to draw 156 players, among them six amateurs. The government has committed to sponsor the event for three years, starting with this year’s edition to be held at Karen Country Club in Nairobi.
“The event will now be about the magical Kenyans who have made it possible to have this competition elevated from a Challenge Tour to Main Tour,” Balala said on Monday. “It shows that Kenyans are more resilient and our objective now is to have Kenyans seen worldwide.”
Balala, accompanied by Sports Principal Secretary Kirimi Kaberia and his Tourism counterpart Joe Okudo, said that success for local sports will come through sponsorships.
“We decided to sponsor golf because of its popularity worldwide. We appreciate the local sports fraternity for the support,” said Balala, adding that last year, Kenya received two million tourists. Kenya targets 2.5 million tourists by 2022.
Kenya Open Golf Limited chairman Peter Kanyago said that other than Magical Kenya and Barclays, other sponsors are Kenya Breweries, Hemmingway’s Nairobi, Coca-Cola, Wilken Group, Copycat, AAR, Nation Media Group, DStv and Meridian Group. Tournament director Patrick Obath said three million Euros (Sh345 million) will be needed to host the event that will see major changes on the course.
Obath said that the championship that has prize purse of 1.1 million Euros (Sh 126.5 million) will be televised live for the first time to over 490 million homes across the world.
Obnath said that the order of play will be new so as to give them the opportunity to brand the course and for players and spectators comfort.
“We shall have one entry for the spectators through the Kenya Open Village where sponsors will have some exhibitions,” said Obath adding that there will also be concerts on Friday and Saturday unlike before. “That is geared bring in people who want to enjoy but not necessarily watch or play golf.”
Obath explained that there will be signal around all the holes at the course for the purpose of live coverage where people at the Kenya Open Village will be able to watch action without travelling around.
Obath said Kenya will provide 18 players; 12 professionals and six amateurs, which is a drastic reduction to when the event was on Challenge Tour.