Already, 90 players from Europe, five South Africans and the local contingent in the European Challenge Tour (ECT) event have checked-in for the tournament that has attracted 156 participants.
It will be the first year that two pro-ams, one facilitated by the title sponsors at Muthaiga and the other by Kenya Airways in Karen with more than 10,000 fans expected to go through the gates of the former when the Open proper tees-off on Thursday.
“The course is very dry but in excellent condition, the club have done a fantastic job in preparing the course. The standards are increasing every time; we have some great players this year even from the European Tour such as Nick Doughty.
“It is our hope that Kenyan players will perform very well this year and they have been practising very hard though out the week,” Paul Carrigill, the Tournament Administrator, told Capital Sport.
Muthaiga was abuzz with activity with last minute preparations as workers scrambled to put everything in place for the event that will mark its 22nd year as an ECT competition.
Beer firm East Africa Breweries through their Tusker Malt Brand boosted the Open’s kitty with Sh2m on Tuesday.
Kenya will field 22 professionals with Kopan Timbe and James Lorum being the latest additions to the line-up with a further six amateurs also getting their moment in the sun.
Defending champion, Michiel Bothma from South Africa returns for the title defence with German Maximilian Kieffer who won this year’s Gujarat Kensville Challenge, Britain’s Phillip Archer who bagged the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Classic and Nicolas Meitinger who carried last year’s Allianz Challenge de France seeded for the tournament.
Kenya’s hopes will be fronted by among others, Golf Park’s Jacob Okello who came closest to winning the Kenya Open in 1998 before losing on sudden death play-off, Ali Kimani who led for two days in 2010 and Nicholas Rokoine who finished highest last year.
“I believe this year because Kenyan professionals have improved our golf since more of us are venturing outside; my prediction is a minimum of seven making the cut. In terms of experience, our Kenyan pros do very well with what they have,” Riz Charania, a hopeful for the hosts who has plotted his build-up in South Africa said.
Robinson Owiti, a former footballer now turned golfer is among the amateurs that will tee-off and he is optimistic of making an impression in the premier Kenya event after trying and failing to qualify in two previous attempts.
“I had been promising to play at the Kenya Open and now that I have the chance, my aim is to show that local players can manage and win the game. I have been practising a lot and I know God will answer my prayers,” he added.
Despite the wave of optimism, some of the country’s top golfers are pragmatic about the chances having seen only four make the cut last year.
“The chances of a Kenyan professional winning this tournament are slim to be honest. If you look at these boys from the ECT and South Africa’s Sunshine Tour, they play 47 and 42 tournaments a year.
“In Kenya, we only play for one month and it is hard to compete with someone who is on the tee every week,” Timbe, the Nyali Golf Club professional who will be making his ninth Barclays Kenya Open appearance said.
Timbe made the cut in 2007 where he carded 8 over 88 for 51st overall and was included in this year’s entry list on Friday after the Jamii Telkom PGK Masters at Muthaiga.