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Friday, 19 March 2010
Lee James ended six winless years when he captured the Sameer Kenya Open in style in sunny Nairobi. The 29 year old carded a final round 64 for a 19-under-par 265, which equalled the tournament's record low aggregate.

James, who plundered an eagle and five birdies from the Muthaiga course, finished three strokes ahead of South African Titch Moore, who returned 66, and four clear of Yorkshire's Ben Mason, his playing partner and the overnight leader, who shot 69.

"It means a lot to me to win again and I couldn't have asked for a better start to the year," said James, whose only previous Challenge Tour success came in the Modena Classic in Italy in 1996.

That win followed his victory in the 1994 Amateur Championship at Nairn when he defeated Scotland's Gordon Sherry, and great things were expected of the Dorset man. But the path to the top has not been smooth.

Perhaps this success, which follows a winter of re-assessment, will kick start his career and produce that elusive European Tour card at the end of the campaign.

James began the day a shot adrift of Mason, but a run of three successive birdies from the second put him clear, while another saw him reach the turn in 32 and move to 16 under.

While Mason was unable to improve his position, Moore took up the challenge with an eagle-three at the fourth and four birdies to momentarily edge ahead. But he dropped a shot at the ninth to be out in 31, level with James.

The South African picked up another shot at the long tenth but bogeys at the 14th and 16th blunted his hopes as he posted a target of 16 under.

James had already moved to 18 under with an eagle at the long tenth, while a further birdie at the par four 16th took all the pressure off and he parred the final two holes for his 64.

"It's taken a while to win again but I had a great start to my round," said James, the first British winner of the title since Scotland’s Mike Miller in 1996. "Those three successive birdies and another at the sixth got the round going. Then came the eagle at the tenth, where I hit driver and seven iron to 20 feet and holed it.

"I only had one hiccup, when I missed from a foot at the 12th for birdie. I also had a chance at the last to go to 20 under but I missed from about 20 feet.

"I didn't know anything about the record, but it wouldn't have worried me if I had. Now this has given me a springboard for this week's tournament in Zambia."

Moore, who finished 16th on the Sunshine Tour in South Africa two weeks ago, is also entered for Zambia as is Mason, so they can be expected to lock horns again come Thursday.

Six more Britons filled the next two places. Benn Barham, a winner on last year’s Challenge Tour, with 65, and Gary Birch Jnr, who shot 66, were joint fourth on 270, while England’s Simon Wakefield (67) and Simon Hurd (68) shared sixth spot with Scot, Greig Hutcheon, who carded his second 65 of the week.

South Africa’s Omar Sandys matched James’s performance with a bogey-free 64 containing seven birdies. It enabled him to climb to joint ninth alongside Anil Ashok Shah, the leading Kenyan, who posted a 66, his best round of the week.

Zimbabwe’s Sean Farrell, who began the day in joint third place with Moore, drifted out of the picture with a 72 for 274. His hopes evaporated when he dropped four shots in three holes from the 12th in an inward 38.

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