By sportsnewsarena correspondent
Apr 10, 2015
There can be few finer ways to announce your return to competitive action than an eight under par round of 64, but that is exactly what two-time European Challenge Tour graduate José-Felipe Lima did on the opening day of the Barclays Kenya Open.
The local crowds have also had plenty to cheer about on the opening day, thanks to the efforts of Kenyan stalwarts like Dismas Indiza Anyonyi, who carded a three under par score to open the 16th start in his national Open.
He is one of 34 home grown players to tee it up this year, a number that is greater than in any season dating back to 1999. The 33 year old, who has finished runner-up on the second tier Rankings on two separate occasions – in both 2009 and 2013 – carded eight birdies on Thursday at Karen Country Club to carve out a narrow two stroke advantage after 18 holes.
Impressive in its own right, the French-born Portuguese golfer has even more reason to be delighted with his form in Nairobi thanks to the fact he has not played a tournament round for seven months, having undergone back surgery last September.
It had initially been suggested to Lima that the issue could bring a premature end to his golfing career, but plenty of rehab and hard work on the range has clearly proved beneficial, and he was delighted to have signed for such a strong start to the week.
“It was a good one to start, and I had exactly the same score in the Pro-Am on Tuesday and won, so to have that score two times in a row on this course makes me very happy,” said the man with three Challenge Tour titles to his name.
“I took two months off after the surgery, but since then I have been to Morocco with my coach and I am swinging much better now. I was losing some power and flexibility last season with what was wrong with my back, but now it is sorted I am feeling very happy.
“I feel better in my body and I know I have the potential to be on The European Tour. It is very difficult out here now though, so I will have to play very well all year to get back, but my goal is to graduate once again at the end of the season.”
There is a three-strong chasing pack just two strokes adrift of the leading Lima, one that includes Spain’s Emilio Cuartero Blanco, Haydn Porteous of South Africa and German Sebastian Heisele, who all carded rounds of 66 on day one.
The latter of those was the only one of the leading four players to have taken to the links in the morning half of the draw, but Heisele – raised in Dubai – was very pleased to have continued the form that saw him earn a place on the Challenge Tour this season through the satellite Pro Golf Tour.
Two wins and a raft of top tens on the northern European circuit saw him finish last season in second place on their Order of Merit, and four strong performances in Morocco earlier in the year have also seen him travel to Nairobi in buoyant mood.
Just one stroke further adrift in a tie for fifth are Dutchman Daan Huizing, Sweden’s Oscar Stark and the Swiss player Damian Ulrich, who all carded five under par rounds of 67 on day one to stay within touching distance of the leading Lima.
They are narrowly ahead of a host of top talent in a share of eighth spot, a group that includes England’s Steven Brown, Swede Jesper Billing, Cyril Bouniol of France, Portugal’s Joao Carlota, Dane Andreas Harto and Jaako Makitalo of Finland, all at four under.