NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 24 – The Kenya Golf Union (KUG) has plans to establish golf courses in all the 47 counties, chairman Richard Wanjala announced on Wednesday during the launch of the 50th Barclays Kenya Open in Nairobi.
In a colorful ceremony attended by Cabinet Secretary for Sports Hassan Wario and his Tourism counterpart Najib Balala, event organisers said by having golf courses in all the counties, it will lift the level of competition of the game in the country.
“We have plans to establish golf courses in all the 47 counties in the spirit of devolution. We already have 42 courses, 36 developed by settlers while 6 are private so we need to build our own Clubs because this will produce more golfers,” Wanjala said in a ceremony that saw organisers kick-off the tournament’s 50th anniversary celebrations with a ceremonial ‘tee off’ from the rooftop of KICC building in Nairobi.
Tournament Director Peter Obath said their main aim is to make the competition that will be held at the Muthaiga Golf Club from March 22-25 rise beyond Kenya Open and join the European Tour.
“The tournament has developed big names that have gone ahead to perform well in the European Challenge Tour. The event has produced big names in Kenya like Dismas Indiza and Jacob Okollo,” Obath said.
Obath confirmed that this year’s event will also see the inaugural ‘winner’s jacket’ handed over in the style of the famous Master’s Green Jacket at Augusta. This jacket will be designed by local designers.
With tournament organisers upping their game to double the Prize money to Sh62.5mn (Euros 500, 000), Balala announced that the Government will commit Sh100mn (USD1mn) towards the event for the next five years.
Sh50mn will come from the Ministry of Sports and another Sh50mn from the Tourism ministry.
“As the Ministry of Tourism, we are committed to consolidating the gains we’ve made over the years and making Kenya a must-see destination for the discerning international golfer,” Balala assured.
“We commit to continue supporting sports events such as the Kenya Open Golf Championship that provide an international audience that can be used to market Kenya as a sports tourism destination,” he added.
Barclays Bank has committed Sh82mn this year, comprising Sh50mn for Barclays Kenya Open sponsorship and Sh32mn that will go towards a six tournament series which will feature amateur players and junior golfers.
The Series, which was launched in Eldoret last year, will feature the Nairobi Open at the Karen Golf Club February 2, followed by the Nakuru Open at the Nakuru Golf Club February 10, then the Kisumu Golf Open at the Nyanza Golf Club February 24.
These will be followed by the Pwani Open at the Nyali Golf Club March 3, and then the Mt. Kenya Open at the Thika Golf Club March 10.
“2018 marks the most memorable of milestones for the Barclays Kenya Open as it reaches its 50th Anniversary and in this most special of years, I know everybody involved in the organizing of this magnificent event is working towards making it the biggest and most memorable of the European Challenge Tour 2018 calendar,” Barclays Bank of Kenya Managing Director Jeremy Awori said.
The main event of Kenya Open 2018 edition will tee-off March 22 and run until March 25 at Muthaiga Golf Club. It will be preceded by the Kenya Open Golf Limited and Barclays Bank of Kenya Pro-Am events on March 20 and 21.
This year, 156 golfers, including about 22 Kenyan professionals, six Kenyan amateurs and over 100 European Challenge Tour players, are expected at the Barclays Kenya Open Championship.