NAIROBI, Kenya, March 9- Jake Roos hailed it as a “career-changer” after the South African emerged from a titanic battle to lift the Barclays Kenya Open title, claiming his maiden European Challenge Tour win and full exemption for the remainder of the 2014 season.
As Roos celebrated, the Kenyan charge fronted by Greg Snow and Dismas Indiza that gave locals hope coming to the day one shot and two shots off the lead, once again capitulated on the final day as the country’s wait for an Open winner rolls over to next year.
Snow (209) and Indiza (210) tied for tenth and 13th in what was nonetheless a good outing at the premier event.
In a thrilling final day in front of massive crowds at Karen Country Club, the lead exchanged hands numerous times right until the concluding moments of the first event of the Challenge Tour season, with up to five players sharing the lead midway through the final round.
But it was Roos who emerged from the pack, despite thinking his chance had gone when he bogeyed the 16th having claimed back to back bogeys at the previous two holes.
But the 32 year old from Pretoria benefited from a double-bogey at the 17th hole from Frenchman Adrian Bernadet, who was one shot clear at that point.
He found himself one clear going down the last, only requiring a par to clinch the title, and he held his nerve with two superb shots to the fringe at the par five 18th before leaving himself with a two-foot putt from 15 feet to finish ten under for the tournament and claim a one shot victory.
“It’s unbelievable,” said the three-time Sunshine Tour winner. “It’s a great privilege to have been able to play in this event so to actually win it and be able to play some events in Europe is just huge for me.
“I’ve only been playing on the Sunshine Tour to this point so it’s a real career-changer for me. The crowds were just amazing here and I love when you have so many people out watching.
“The vibe was awesome and I was hosted by a local family this week so it was just a great week for me, I will never forget it. It is special to win in Africa too.
“I felt good all day and I’ve been playing really nicely lately. I made a bogey at 16 and I thought I was a shot behind. Then I didn’t hit a great approach shot on the 17th and I thought it was a real missed chance.
“But then coming up 18 I suddenly realised I was ahead again so it was just a blessing that it worked out like that. At the end of the day you just have to focus on your own game no matter what so I’m just very grateful that it went my way.”
While Roos is not yet a full Challenge Tour member, he is expected to take up membership this week, when he will be instated into the 2014 Challenge Tour Rankings at the top of the pile.
Having played on an invite this week, the man who plays out of Centurion Country Club will now have to change his whole schedule for the year and he is thoroughly relishing the opportunity to fight for graduation to The European Tour.
“I will have to completely rearrange my year,” he said. “I was planning most of my year in South Africa so it’s really exciting for me and I’m really looking forward to it.
“I have played on the Challenge Tour before so I know the standard is really high. I think some European players might have come here a little off-guard because it was the first event of their season whereas I’m off the back of six co-sanctioned events so I think that counted in our favour.
“I know once I get to Europe the competition is going to be very strong there but I’ll give it a go. I think this is going to give me a great opportunity to go on and get into that top 15 but it’s early days. It certainly sets up a great year for me though.”
Three players – Frenchman Adrien Bernadet, Denmark’s Lasse Jensen and Pedro Oriol of Spain – all shared second place on nine under par having all been top of the leaderboard at one point during a rollercoaster final day.
Jensen collected his second runner-up finish in his last two appearances at the event, having lost out to Seve Benson in a play-off two years ago, but the 29 year old was keen to take the positives from the week.
“At the moment I have so many different emotions,” said the Copenhagen man, who signed for a two under par 70. “When you start the week obviously you are going for a win but you would take a second place.
“But how I played this week and how it all went, maybe I feel in the end that it could have been my turn this week. I was playing really well and I had the chances on the back nine but maybe the next event will be mine. I’m definitely playing well.”
Bernadet, meanwhile, was left ruing a crucial double bogey as he also carded a 70, but he was philosophical about it and was happy to record the best finish of his Challenge Tour career.
“I played well the whole week,” said the 29 year old. “I missed very few shots during the whole tournament but I struggled on the greens.
“When I moved to 11 under there was a lot of pressure and I was trying to relax. I was nervous all day really but I missed one shot on 17, it was a flying lie from the rough and I tried to do something big and made a double.
That’s golf. I’m happy to finish second and there are lots of positives.”
Oriol, who played alongside Roos and posted a one under 71, was also happy to have earned the best result of his career and the 27 year old is looking forward to pushing on this season.
“I played really good but Jake played really well and he deserved it,” said the Madrid man. “I made a big mistake on the par five third and made a bogey there but I made no bogeys from there and did my job. I’m really looking forward to the year now. I’m in a great position and I’m feeling very confident now.”