After a thrilling start to the European Challenge Tour season in the Barclays Kenya Open at Muthaiga Golf Club last week, we look back at five things we learned in Nairobi.
A huge step
When Lorenzo Gagli held his nerve to beat Swede Jens Fahrbring in a three-hole play-off on Sunday, he not only secured his maiden Challenge Tour victory but also took a huge step towards a top 15 berth in the Challenge Tour Rankings. The Italian received 80,000 points for his victory, placing him at the top of the early season Rankings and giving the 32 year old a superb opportunity to clinch a spot on the European Tour next season. In 2017, Scotsman Bradley Neil secured 15th place in the Challenge Tour Rankings with 93,168 points, earning a place on this season’s European Tour.
Another year of first-time wins?
Gagli’s victory in Nairobi was his first on the Challenge Tour and it could signify the beginning of another year of maiden victories. In beating Jens Fahrbring over a three-hole play-off, the Italian recorded his first win since his satellite Alps Tour victory at the Una Hotels Resort Open in 2007. Last year, Englishman Aaron Rai triumphed at Muthaiga Golf Club to record his first Challenge Tour victory, a result which set the benchmark for a further 16 first-time winners during the season. In 2016, there were 22 first-time winners on the Challenge Tour.
Schmitt’s strong start
Despite ending the week five shots off the winner in tied 18th, German Max Schmitt was impressive on his first Challenge Tour start. The former satellite Pro Golf Tour player held the lead in Kenya after a six under par second round of 65 but a final round 75 put paid to any hopes the 19 year old had of securing a debut victory. Schmitt, who won three times as an amateur on the Pro Golf Tour last year, carded seven birdies during his second round of 65 – including a superb chip-in at the par three 11th.
Sweden were well represented at last week’s Barclays Kenya Open, with four players finishing in the top 20 and three in the top 10. Jens Fahrbring’s final round 67 forced a play-off – which ultimately ended in defeat against Lorenzo Gagli – to lead the Swedish players’ charge, while countryman Sebastian Soderberg led the field going into the final round before carding a closing 74 to finish tied sixth. Last year, there were four different Swedish winners on the Challenge Tour; Jens Dantorp, Oscar Lengden, Joel Sjöholm and Oscar Stark.
Suits you, Lorenzo!
The Green Jacket donned by the winner of the Masters Tournament at Augusta National is undoubtedly the most famous jacket in golf, but Kenya ramped up the fashion stakes by introducing a red jacket for this year’s Barclays Kenya Open. For the first time ever, the winner of the Barclays Kenya Open – Lorenzo Gagli – received a locally-designed jacket in honour of his victory in East Africa. Designed by Kenyan fashion designer Nick Ondu of Nick Ondu Sartorial, the jacket is red in colour and has bespoke features on the back and arms. The jacket was introduced as part of the Barclays Kenya Open’s 50th anniversary celebrations.