Kenya Open Golf Limited (KOGL) has announced that the biggest golfing tournament in the country. Kenya Open Golf Championship, will be part of the European Tour from next year, having attained that status after a series of talks with the prestigious global golf series organisers.
The move sees Kenya join South Africa as the only two nations on the continent to play host to the prestigious tour that sees the world’s leading golfers s;ug it out for honours.
Next year’s Kenya Open which will be held at Karen Country Club from March 14-17, preceded by a Pro-Am event on the March 13, is expected to draw the interest of top golf talent from across the globe.
With the status, the prize kitty for the 2019 championship has been raised to Sh 126 million (1.1m Euros) which is double the total prize money from this year’s tournament which marked the championship’s 50th anniversary.
The prize kitty increase also follows the announcement by President Uhuru Kenyatta in March this year that the government is increasing its sponsorship towards the tournament to Sh252.9 million (2.2m Euros).
“We held talks with the organisers of the European Tour and are delighted to have achieved this milestone. Having the top golfers play in Kenya will give our golfers exposure an open an avenue for our pro’s to receive invites to play in the Tour. We believe it will propel our championship to the next level as we embark on this new phase,” Kenya Open Golf Limited chairman, Peter Kanyago, said.
Eight local professionals will get automatic slots to play in the tournament while the rest of the pro’s battle it out for six invitational slots, tentatively against other African golfers, for a chance to play in the global event.
Two more invitational slots are reserved for European Tour members. The top six Kenyan amateur golfers also get a chance to share the course with some of the top golfers in the world.
“We are yet to decide on who gets the six invitational slots. However, we will probably opt for a pre-qualifier tournament for African golfers instead of handpicking from specific countries. Since we do not have any Kenyan golfers who have attained the European Tour Statues, the two remaining invitational slots will go to European golfers,”said Kanyago.
Meanwhile, in a bid to prepare local professionals for next year’s tournament KOGL is running a nationwide golf series, dubbed ‘Safari Tour’ that will also act as the qualifier tournament. It will feature four rounds of golf over a period of four days with a prize kitty of Sh1 million per event.
Seven events are scheduled, the first taking place at Nyali Golf and Country Club from August 18-22 featuring golf professionals, elite amateurs and elite juniors drawn from across the country. Each Safari Tour has a Pro-Am event, which will feature host club members, invited elite amateurs and elite juniors.