NAIROBI, Mar 18 - The 2004 Kenya Open championship starts this morning with 147 players from all over the world teeing off at the Karen Golf and Country Club.
It is the fifth tournament in the 2004 European Challenge Tour circuit after the Panana Masters, Costa Rica Open, Guatemala's Abierto Telefonica and last weekend's Zambia Open.
Of the big field, 18 players are Kenyan professionals and five amateurs, one Ugandan amateur, two Tanzanian professionals, while 28 are South Africans. The rest are mainly European.
Locals professionals are Anil Shah, Jacob Okello who almost won the tournament in 1998, Ajay Shah, Dismus Indiza and John Kiondo, all who had a good practice during the Zambia Open in Lusaka last week, James Ngigi, the Thethy brothers, Hardeep and Charan and George Ndegwa.
Kopan Timbe leads the local amateurs. Last September, David Odhiambo broke the Karen course record then held by former junior world champion Louis Oosthuizen.
Other amateurs include Sam Kamau, James Lorum, junior Farsheed Alibhai and Uganda's Deo Akope.
Ajay had by lunch yesterday shot two under-par 68 in the Pro-Am while James Ngigi posted one under par 69 at the course.
The internationals include the reigning champion Englishman Lee S James who beat South Africa's Titch Moore in 2002 by three shots. He equalled the tournament record of 19 under par set by a Welsh, James Lee in 1995 at Muthaiga Golf Club.
Yesterday the two coincidentally fired one over par 71 in the Pro-Am. Other top players are South Africans Sammy, Daniels, Michael Kirk, Omar Sandys, Englishman Gary Birch and Scott Greig Hutcheon.
Local Professionals: Elisha Kasuku, Charan Thethy, Hardeep Thethy, Anil Shah, Ajay Shah, John Limb, John Njunge, James Ngigi, Peter Mwangi, John Kiondo, John Ngugi, Jacob Okello, Stuart Cohen, John Kisia, Dismus Indiza, James Kingori, Richard Ainley, George Ndegwa. Amateurs: Kopan Timbe, David Odhiambo, Sam Kamau, James Lorum, Farsheed Alibhai, Deo Akope (Uganda).
Meanwhile, world No.1 Annika Sorenstam and 14-year-old prodigy Michelle Wie, the two biggest names in women's golf, launch their LPGA seasons today at the Safeway International.
For Sorenstam, who notched up her first win of the year three weeks ago at the Australian Ladies' Masters, the tournament completes her preparations for her bid to become the first player to win all four majors in one season.
The first of the big four is at Mission Hills, Rancho Mirage, in California next week.
"At the moment, this is the week that matters," Sorenstam said. "But it's also important that I get the momentum going.
"This week's tournament is perfect preparation for Mission Hills. It's very long and tricky and a very good test."
Wie, who came within a shot of making the cut at the men's Sony Open in her native Hawaii in January, is competing in her 11th LPGA tournament as an invited amateur.
She played in seven last year, making the cut in all but one, with the highlight a tie for ninth place in the Mission Hills major.
Wie, who is six feet tall and hits the ball over 300 yards, says she eventually wants to divide her time between the LPGA and the PGA Tours, while her ultimate ambition is to play in the Masters at Augusta National.
"But those are long-term aims," she said. "I have to set high goals to make me work harder. To play in the Masters and on the PGA Tour would be tough, but I'm getting there.
by Alari Alare
Source: The East African Standard/All Africa Global Media
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