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Thursday, 28 February 2002
England’s Ben Mason made a flying start to his season as the 2002 European Challenge Tour got underway in the heat of Africa. The Yorkshire-based pro carded an eight-under-par 63, his lowest tour return, to lead after the first round of the Sameer Kenya Open at Muthaiga in Nairobi.

It leaves him a stroke ahead of another Englishman, Sandeep Grewal, Omar Sandys from South Africa, and the leading Kenyan, John Kiondo, and three clear of the rest of the field.

Mason, who will celebrate his 25th birthday on Saturday, started from the 10th tee and there was hint of the fireworks to come as he opened with five pars. A birdie at the short 15th got him going and he reached the turn in 32 with an eagle-three after firing a three-wood to eight feet.

The spectacular golf came in a homeward 31 with seven more birdies and two bogeys. He was trailing at four under standing on the 6th tee but the former England international reeled off four successive birdies, finishing with three 3s, holing from ten, 18 and 15 feet on successive greens.

"This is my first tournament of the year and I'm delighted to get such a quick start," said Mason. "I've been playing and practising well but I can't believe I've shot so low."

Grewal has been in form this year after a sparkling display on the Sunshine Tour in South Africa during which he finished eighth in the dunhill championship behind Justin Rose.

He feels at home in Kenya as his parents were born there and he is staying with his uncle and aunt this week and being supported by many friends and relations.

"I have been feeling inspired by that performance in the dunhill," he said.

Sandys produced one of the best back nines of the day, coming home in 30 with six birdies and finishing 3-3-4.

Kiondo cheered the home fans with his 64, which also included 30 over the back nine with an eagle and three birdies after starting at the 10th tee. Kiondo, the pro at the nearby Sigma club, is lucky still to be playing golf after surviving a car crash several years ago in which both his legs were broken.

After heavy overnight rain, which softened the course, non-stop sunshine and hot conditions brought a spate of low scoring.

Among those on 66 is ex-Walker Cup men Graeme Storm from England and Scotland's Steven O'Hara, along with South Africans Hennie Otto, a Challenge Tour graduate in 1999, Titch Moore and Martin Maritz.

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