Young Englishman Chris Lloyd will return to the place which he earmarks as the scene of his first big step as a European Challenge Tour professional when he joins a strong field at Muthaiga Golf Club for the Barclays Kenya Open.
Lloyd, who turned 20 in February, has shown a maturity beyond his years on the Challenge Tour since joining at the beginning of last year after an impressive amateur career.
The man from Bristol came close to earning a European Tour card in his debut season, finishing 28th in the Challenge Tour rankings before the crushing disappointment of missing the cut at The European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage by just one shot last December.
It was a roller coaster year for Lloyd, which began with a respectable 31st place finish in India before an unfortunate sun burn incident left him in hospital in Miami and unable to play the second event in Colombia.
So it was in Kenya, he believes, where it all began in earnest as he shot a six under par 65 on the opening day to lay down a marker as one of the Challenge Tour’s up-and-coming stars.
“I had to pull out of Colombia last year,” he said. “There were about six of us in Miami the week before and the day we were due to fly we were in South Beach in the morning and, being the wisecrack that I was, I decided not to wear any sun cream, so I was in hospital the day after with second degree burns.
“That was quite a start. I had just turned 19, it was my second event and my name was known, but for all the wrong reasons!
“I then played Kenya and that really got me going. I finished quite a way down (tied 40th) but I shot 65 in the first round so that was a real confidence boost for me.
“It didn’t carry on through the week but it gave me the confidence that I could hit a good score out here on Tour. After that I was off and running - I finished second in Italy the month after.
“The first week, in India, I hardly knew anyone and I was just pleased to make my first cut and get my first cheque. Then came the sun burn incident, but Kenya and the first round gave me that boost to take into the season. It freed me up a little bit. I knew a few more people and I started to settle in and find my feet, get in the comfort zone and then you can just get on with playing golf.”
Getting on with the golf he certainly has done, and an eighth place finish at the Gujarat Kensville Challenge in January gave him an impressive start before he sealed a tied runner-up finish at the Pacific Rubiales Colombia.
“I have much higher targets this year,” said Lloyd. “Obviously the ultimate goal is to get your card but I’d like to finish right up there. I finished eighth in India in January and was disappointed not to get a play-off in India, so it was a steady start and hopefully I can continue in that vein.
“I can plan a lot better this year and pick and choose where I want to play and hopefully stay a lot fresher during the season too. I was 28th last year and I missed my card but only by six or seven thousand euros, which over the course of the year is not bad. For a first year, I’m not too disappointed. I learned a lot about myself and about my golf game.”