If last year is anything to go by, the new European Challenge Tour season and the 2016 Road to Oman might not be the only things starting at the Barclays Kenya Open, but also the career of a new golfing star.
At last year’s curtain-raiser, Haydn Porteous memorably triumphed over close friend Brandon Stone in a play-off, eagling the first additional hole at Karen Country Club in Nairobi to clinch a maiden professional victory.
The South African pair have since gone on to take the European Tour by storm, Stone winning the BMW SA Open hosted by City of Ekurhuleni before one week later Porteous claimed the Joburg Open.
Kenya is always going to be very close to my heart - I wish I was going there this year
That victory secured Porteous his European Tour playing rights through to the end of the 2017 season, but he retains fond memories of his breakthrough win on the Challenge Tour last April.
“Kenya was my first pro win so it’s always going to be very close to my heart,” said the 21 year old. “It’s a great country with really friendly people, and it’s a great week – I wish I was going there this year.”
Winning in Kenya put Porteous in the top 15 of the Road to Oman Rankings, where he remained until the final event of the season, the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final.
A disappointing week in Oman saw him overtaken in the Rankings at the 11th hour, just missing out on one of the 15 European Tour cards, while a visit to the Final Stage of the European Tour Qualifying School a week later was similarly unsuccessful.
Such is golf, and, with the Joburg Open victory looking like a watershed moment in this young man’s career, Porteous is ready to acknowledge the lessons he learned from some of 2015’s setbacks.
“In terms of confidence I thought Kenya was a bit of a shot in the dark,” he said. “I hadn’t been playing very well and it sort of came out of nowhere.
“For much of the season after that I played really nicely to keep myself within the top 15 in the Road to Oman Rankings on the Challenge Tour but I got, I would say, a little bit unlucky towards the end of the season.
“Unfortunately I didn’t play very well and missed out in Oman, missed out in the Final Stage of Q-School, but then I won the Joburg Open and now I’m just riding that wave.
“After winning Kenya I started to battle nerves with the putter and I learned to get through that.
“I think a lot of golfers take the psychology part of the game quite lightly, but I worked quite hard in terms of trying to be confident around the golf course and thinking about the right things. The Joburg Open was almost a reward for all the hard work I’d been putting into the psychology part of it.”
Among those looking to follow in Porteous’ footsteps this week are six winners on the Challenge Tour from 2015, all of whom will be targeting further success to kick-start their 2016 campaigns.
Also in the field are Espen Kofstad, Andrea Pavan and Alvaro Velasco, all winners of the Road to Oman Rankings in recent years and proven performers on the Challenge Tour.Of a large local contingent, Dismas Indiza Anyonyi may again be the best hope for Kenyan success, the 47 year old having finished in the top 30 in three of the last four years and playing the tournament for the 17th time.