Sebastian Soderberg surged to a maiden European Challenge Tour victory as he won the season-opening Barclays Kenya Open by three shots at Nairobi’s Karen Country Club.
The Swede held a three shot advantage overnight and never faltered, his five under par final round of 67 – his fourth round in the 60s this week – putting him on 18 under par overall in front of the watching President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Soderberg now takes an early lead in the Road to Oman Rankings after earning 35,200 points and the 25 year old has already fulfilled one of his season aims by winning for the first time.
“It feels pretty unreal right now,” he said. “I was just trying to keep it together all day – one of my goals for the season was to win an event on the Challenge Tour, so I’ve crossed that off the list.
“It gives me a good boost so I’m more excited than ever for the rest of the season, but I haven’t really had long to think about it yet, it hasn’t sunk in properly.
“I had the same approach today as the rest of the week and it worked pretty well, though I changed it on 18 a bit and took three wood, just to make sure.
“I had a slow front nine but I managed to make a few birdies around the turn and after that I just tried to keep calm and carry on – it was tough, but it feels really good now.
“The crowds and support were incredible. I missed the cut here last year so didn’t get to experience the weekend atmosphere but I’ve never known a Challenge Tour event like it, it was amazing.”
In second place was Frenchman Romain Langasque, playing in his penultimate event as an amateur before he turns professional after competing in next month’s Masters Championship at Augusta.
The 20 year old fired a final round of 65 – breaking Louis Oosthuizen’s course amateur record – and becomes the first player to take advantage of new regulations allowing amateurs to earn Road to Oman Ranking points.
“It was a good round,” he said. “I knew my game was good before this round, I’d just been making a few mistakes in the first few rounds, so this morning I just thought I’d play my own game.
“My attitude was perfect all week, so all the work of this winter is working now, and it’s good to play like that before Augusta because I’m confident that I can play well even with that added pressure.
“The Rankings points is great because I now think it is enough for me to now play a full season on the Challenge Tour, which is one less pressure. Now my objective is to finish in the top 15 and get on the European Tour next year.”
Germany’s Bernd Ritthammer took third place on 14 under par, three shots ahead of compatriot Sebastian Heisele, South African duo Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Dylan Frittelli and Norway’s Espen Kofstad.The next stop on the Road to Oman is Egypt for the Red Sea Egyptian Challenge Presented by Hassan Allam Properties next month, the second of 28 tournaments on this year’s schedule that will visit 22 different countries.