• South Africa continue to dominate continental golf

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Oct 25, 2011-

South Africa continues to dominate the game of golf on the African continent – for both amateurs and professional.

This year, Michel Bothma won the Barclays Kenya Open at Muthaiga in March, the SA amateur team won Zone VI in Mombasa in April and now the continental title at the recently concluded Africa Amateur Golf Team championships,AAGTC.

South Africa ran away with the trophy for the sixth time with the widest margin, 29-under par over four rounds. Namibia was second, 28-over par followed by Kenya in third, 36-over.

The only consolation was that Stefan Andersen took second place overall, on 5-under par. Kenya sent a largely new and unproven team to the AAGTC in Johannesburg, South Africa which was its undoing.

Apart from Stefan Engell Andersen, who has been capped for Kenya for the last six years – since he was 15 – the remainder of the team, David Opati, Joseph Karanja and Mathew Omondi had never played in an international strokeplay championships.

Both Zone VI and the East African Challenge are matchplay formats. The results speak for themselves. After a good practice round – the only one – the Kenyans were upbeat. However, gustly and unpredictable winds during the first round set the tone for what was to follow. Andersen’s opening round of level par 72 was not supported by the rest of team. Using Eisenhower scoring, best three scores counting, team Captain David Opati (8-over) and Joseph Karanja (12-over) total 20-over par put Kenya in sixth place.

Fighting hard in the second round, the Kenyans raised their game with Andersen signing for a 2-under par, 70 and Opati (74) and Omondi (78) brought Kenya up to third place, where they remained until the last round.

Ranked in the top three, Kenya played each round with South Africa, alternating with Namibia and Botswana in the three ball. Meanwhile however, Omondi proved to be Kenya’s secret weapon as his performance got better after each day. After round three, although Andersen’s 4-under, 68 was the best score of the day, Omondi’s 75 (3-over) and Karanja’s 78 (6-over) dragged the Kenyan aggregate down.

If the Kenyans were hoping to retain their second place in this continental showing, the Namibians had other ideas. Two of their players shot level par rounds to put pressure on Kenya on the last round, but they were only two shots ahead on 677.

Suffering an upset stomach, Andersen’s final round of 73 (one-over) was not good enough to topple the Namibians. And both Omondi’s heroic 73, and Karanja’s 75 (3-over) were too late to make a difference.

South Africa finished with 835, followed by Namibia on 892 eight shots ahead of Kenya on 900. Suprisingly, Swaziland edged out Botswana (923) for fourth place on 918. Other scores were sixth place Zimbabwe 926, Zambia 957 tied with Mauritius for joint seventh.

Reunion beat the East African champions Uganda, who were placed tenth on 965 – and a good signal to Kenya who will attempt to grab the title back in Arusha in November at this year’s regional championships. Cote d’Ivoire were last with 977.

But back to the team, in an effort to make the selection fair, the Kenya Golf Union,KGU organized trials over two weeks to pick three on-form golfers, who would join Johannesburg-based Andersen (wild card pick) to form the Kenya team for the sixth edition of the AAGTC. And perhaps this is not the answer.

A combination of consistency, using the Golfer of the Year ranking, as well as current form and experience must form the basis for future team selections for Kenya. Three members of the team that came second in Egypt two years ago have since turned professional.

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