Ngige Leads Local Charge, Okello Struggles At Magical Kenya Open

Mar 14 - by Mutwiri Mutuota for SportPesa News

Best-placed local pro and 13th overall is four shots off the club house lead shared by Briton Singh Brar and South African de Jager after opening round at Karen Country Club

Simon Ngige lines up a putt at the Karen Country Club on Round One of the 2019 Magical Kenya Open Golf Championship on Thursday, March 14, 2019. PHOTO/Courtesy/Organisers

  • Upgraded to the prestigious main PGA Europe Tour for the first time since the inaugural edition in 1967, this year's running was billed as the toughest ever and the locals who are measuring their talent against some of the best players out there posted mixed results on the opening day of the tournament
  • British Singh Brar and South African de Jager will start Friday's second round with a share of the club house lead having uncorked impressive 7 under 64s, with the former assuming the lead on count back
  • David Wakhu, David Odhiambo and Nelson Simwa all returned a 4-over 74 scores to finish toed for 95th. Among the pros, Jacob Okello, who came closest to producing a home winner in the domestic open, struggled the most to fining the day tied in 139th place with a nine-over par on his card. Among the amateurs, Samuel Njoroge was best of the lot with a 4-over par score to finish tied in 109th

NAIROBI, Kenya- Thika Sports Club ace Simon Ngige fired 3 under 68 to end the Thursday's opening day as the best placed Kenyan golfer and 13th overall at the 2019 Magical Kenya Open presented by Absa.

Ngige is four strokes behind Jack Singh Brar who picked up five shots in his last four holes to share the overall lead with Louis de Jager in round one at Nairobi's Karen Country Club.

Upgraded to the prestigious main PGA Europe Tour for the first time since the inaugural edition in 1967, this year's running was billed as the toughest ever and the locals who are measuring their talent against some of the best players out there posted mixed results on the opening day of the tournament.

Big-hitting Dismas Indiza from Mumias who is one of the 10 tied in 14th for the tournament, carded 69 for 2 under to join Ngige as the only other Kenyan who managed to go below par in the lush Karen greens and fairways.

British Singh Brar and South African de Jager will start Friday's second round with a share of the club house lead having uncorked impressive 7 under 64s, with the former assuming the lead on count back. 

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Starting off at the first tee in the afternoon, Ngige only dropped two shots on the first nine – at the par-4, first and the par-3, second - before holing birdies at the par-5, sixth, the par-4, eighth and the par-4, ninth for a total of 34.

On the back nine, he dropped a lone birdie at the par-3, 16th; but birdies at the par-5, 11th, the par-4, 15th and par-4, 17th holes were enough to secure a total of 34.

“I had a shaky start dropping two shots at the start, but a conversation with my caddie stabilized my approach and I attained some level of focus. The wind was a challenge, and the course was quite bumpy as some groups had played on the course in the morning, but overall it was a good day for me.

"Going into tomorrow’s (Friday's) round, I want to remain focused on the game and ensure that I am just playing the ball," the Thika golfer remarked on his return to the club house.

Johnnie Walker-partnered Indiza started off his campaign on a flyer, finishing 2-under par 69 to leave him in fifth by the time he left the 18th green. He started his round from the par-4, 10th tee with a birdie before following it up with another at the par-5,11th.

He however struggled to hole consecutive bogeys at the par-5, 12th, par-4, 13th and par-3, 14th holes before holding par on the rest of the holes. He found his groove on the first nine to play blemish-free to hole birdies on the par-3 4th, par-5, 6th and par-4, 7th holes for 32.

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Decent outing

“I tried my best to play well since I started with consecutive birdied at the 10th and the 11th holes before struggling at the 12th, 13th and 14th holes; but I later calmed down and started playing well but it was generally a decent outing for me today and I felt that I don’t have much to improve on going into round two tomorrow,” Indiza who is aiming at going all the way to Sunday's final round at the Open for the third year in a row stated.

Great Rift Valley Lodge and Golf Resort’s Jastus Madoya returned a level-par 71 score to finish the round tied in 36th; and third among the Kenyans at the tournament.

He carded 37 on the first nine courtesy of three bogeys – at the second, sixth and ninth - and a lone birdie at the par-4, seventh. On the back nine he hit three birdies – at the 11th, 12th, and 17th holes – and dropped a single shot at the 14th for a total of 34.

Golf Park’s Tony Omuli shot a decent 1-over 72 on the round to finish the day tied in 54th; with his scorecard featured an impressive eagle at the par-5, sixth.

Windsor's David Opati in action at the Karen Country Club on Round One of the 2019 Magical Kenya Open Golf Championship on Thursday, March 14, 2019. PHOTO/Courtesy/Organisers

Meanwhile, Muthaiga’s Greg Snow who went in as the best local pro having won the domestic Safari Tour Series and Vet lab’s Edwin Mudanyi finished the round with two-over par scores to end tied in 74th. 

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Snow, who played in the company of 15-time European Tour Champion and immediate former Ryder Cup captain, Thomas Bjorn and the winner of the 2019 Qatar Masters, Justin Harding, aims at reversing his fortunes on Friday for any chances of making the cut at the end of the day's play.

“I was a bit shaky off the tee and I didn’t hit it well, but I ground it out really well on the back nine, where I found some form, and that’s how I was able to finish the day off with a 73. I’ll just go out there and have fun, shoot a good score and we should be good for the weekend,” Snow noted in looking up for the positives.

David Wakhu, David Odhiambo and Nelson Simwa all returned a 4-over 74 scores to finish toed for 95th. Among the pros, Jacob Okello, who came closest to producing a home winner in the domestic open, struggled the most to fining the day tied in 139th place with a nine-over par on his card. Among the amateurs, Samuel Njoroge was best of the lot with a 4-over par score to finish tied in 109th.

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Singh Brar is playing in just his 15th European Tour event at Karen  and carded his lowest round to date with a 64 to get to seven under, before De Jager birdied the last to join him at the summit.

India's Gaganjeet Bhullar was at six under after a bogey free round, a shot clear of Spaniard Adri Arnaus and Northern Ireland's Michael Hoey in third and fourth for the tournament.

Englishman Singh Brar turned professional in 2017 after taking three points from four in a losing Walker Cup effort and graduated from the European Challenge Tour last season with the help of a win at the Cordon Golf Open.

“Through the round I got up and down when I needed to and then I was five under through my last four - a great way to finish the round. I have to just keep pushing on now as you can’t defend on this Tour,” Singh Brar said. 

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De Jager came through the Qualifying School at the sixth attempt last season and has played at least one European Tour event in each of the last 12 seasons since he turned professional.

“I have been hitting it really well over the past two weeks and I did that again today but just managed to hole a few putts too," the South African underscored.

Action in the 1.1m Euro prize money showpiece resumes at 7:20am (+3GMT) on Friday.

- Get the Magical Kenya Open leaderboard HERE

England's Jacob Singh Brar in action at the Karen Country Club on Round One of the 2019 Magical Kenya Open Golf Championship on Thursday, March 14, 2019. PHOTO/Courtesy/Organisers