Dismas Indiza was the highest placed Kenyan, delighting the huge home crowds – which included president, Mwai Kibaki – with a one under par 70 to finish tied 22nd Muthaiga Golf Club.
Brian Njoroge who fired a two over 73 on the final day was the second home golfer who also tied for 22nd overall as he celebrated making the cut at the country’s premier event for the first time.
Ganeev Giddie (tied 26th), Stephan Andersen (tied 30th), Nicholas Rokoine (tied 41st) and Anil Shah (tied 55th) are the other Kenyans who made the cut in an improvement from last year where only four played past day two.
John Kagiri (joint 79th), amateur player Matthew Omondi (joint 79th), Liz Charania, Ali Kimani and David Odhiambo (joint 91st) complete the local contingent that featured in the top 100.
But as expected, the Kenya Open title once again eluded the country’s best players when Benson birdied the 18th in regulation play to tie with Jensen on ten under par and he did the same again at the first extra hole while Jensen could only manage a bogey.
Three off the lead at the start of the final round, the 25 year old stormed to a five under par 66 with birdies at the second, fourth, seventh, tenth, 11th and 18th, recovering well from a bogey at the first.
Joint overnight leader Jensen thought he had done enough for victory as he stepped on to the 18th tee, believing that he just needed a par to win, but his two under par 69 also left him on ten under, and when the pair went head to head, he came up short.
The victory will taste particularly sweet for Benson as he suffered a severe back injury in 2010, which curtailed his season and left him struggling for form and fitness for most of 2011. He finished 163rd in The Race to Dubai last year, but already has a return to the top in his sights after just three events on the Challenge Tour this season.
“I’m delighted,” said the Wentworth Club-attached player, who earns €30,400 in prize money. “I knew I had to shoot a good score today because I didn’t think it was likely that the leaders would be coming back towards me.
“I knew Lasse would be thinking he was still leading when he teed off the 18th and would take an iron. That makes it harder to birdie, so I was expecting a play-off.
“It’s never easy winning, but I have won twice before on the Challenge Tour and have spent the last three years playing on The European Tour, so I used all that experience to help me.
“It’s great to get a win under my belt so early in the season. Hopefully now I can push on from here and either get two more wins to go straight back to The European Tour, or I can finish in the top ten in the Rankings.”
Jensen was disappointed not to have claimed his maiden Challenge Tour title, but was happy with the way he handled the situation and can take plenty of positives from the week.
“I was in the lead all day and after my birdie at the 12th I was maybe trying to play for par, when I should have been trying to get to 11 or 12 under,” said the 27 year old. “I was playing safe, and Seve snuck up behind me.
“Of course I’m very disappointed, but I’m very happy with my performance today. I was a little nervous for the first couple of holes but then I got used to it. I played well, but someone played that bit better.
“I didn’t hear a big cheer when Seve was on the 18th, so I thought he had made par. So I took a three iron off the tee, thinking I only needed a par to win. I don’t know what would’ve happened if I’d taken a driver – who knows?
“This is still my best finish on the Challenge Tour and when I’m sitting on the plane tonight, overall I will be very happy with my week’s work. I know I can get myself into position now, and one day my time will come.”
It was another fine week for Phil Archer, who won last month’s Pacific Rubiales Colombia Classic, as the Englishman posted a best-of-the-day 65 to take a share of third place alongside South African Tyrone Ferreira.
“I nearly didn’t play because on Thursday morning my left shoulder was frozen,” said Archer. “I managed to get round in level par playing with half a swing, then I saw the physios here on Thursday night who sorted it out.
“I played with painkillers on Friday and thankfully I’ve been pain-free for the weekend. It’s great to start the season so well.”
- Story sourced from European Tour website