The Kenya Open Golf Limited (KOGL) and the European Tour jointly announced this week that the Kenya Open has been rescheduled to take place from November 12-15 at Karen Country Club in Nairobi.
The event had been set for March 12-15 before the Covid-19 pandemic wave. “Yes it is,” KOGL General Manager Vincent Wang’ombe confirmed to Sunday Monitor.
Preparations are already underway for Karen to host a field of 144 players including Ugandan Phillip Kasozi who made the grade via the regional Safari Tour with 11 others.
“International air travel to Kenya will be open on August 1. We no longer have lockdown and the curfew from 9pm to 4am is not a hindrance to planning,” added Wang’ombe.
Consistency & six cuts
Kasozi earned his second straight ticket to the European Tour event to compete for the €1.1m (Shs4.54b) purse by virtue of his consistency worth 208.5 points after making the cut at six of the 11 2019/20 series events. The affable professional is impressed with the new choice of dates. “For now, I would say yes because probably the measures would have been eased,” Kasozi said after a round at the par-72 Uganda Golf Club (UGC) Kitante course on Friday.
Even if recreational golf is taking place, sports in Uganda is still suspended by President Yoweri Museveni. It means golfers cannot have competitive engagements yet, which remains a hindrance in the professionals’ earnings.
The Uganda Olympic Committee (UOC) and National Council of Sports (NCS) recently formulated Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to guide resumption of activity but little has materialised for sports. Now, the regional Safari Tour Series would have been a warm-up platform for Kasozi but travel and in-land restrictions across the region are still in place, that casts a shadow on his preparations.
“We are working towards a start date. We don’t have any confirmations yet but we hope to make it official soon,” Wang’ombe said of the 2020-2021 Safari Tour Series.
Uganda still has a 7pm - 6:30am curfew which curtails Kasozi’s plans. “Covid restrictions and measures differ from one country to another. Working out hours from early morning and late evenings are out.
“So now a man has to plan afresh. As you can imagine, here, we are not like the pros out there, who have putting greens and gyms attached to their houses. You have to motivate yourself and keep reminding yourself of your goals,” he adds.
Like Kasozi, many other Ugandan pros have resumed activity at different clubs but they are devoid of competitions.
“Currently, they are just practising to keep in shape,” says Sadi Atibu, the Players’ Committee Chairman at the Uganda Professional Golfers Association (UPGA).
“We are just hitting balls,” says Denis Anguyo, who is now doing about five rounds a week as well as inducting children into the game at Lake Victoria Serena Golf Resort & Spa in Kigo. Kigo’s course pro Fred Wanzala is monitoring the golf business at the club. “On average, about four pros take to the course everyday here,” discloses Wanzala.
“And since most of the children for golfers are home, they are also being trained by us as we wait for tournaments to resume or even the airport and borders to open so we can try and play inevents elsewhere.”