Ooko, Malik lead Kenyan charge as France's Herbert tops
Local Pro Erick Ooko Obura lines a putt during the Magical Kenya Open Tournament at the Karen Country Club on March 18, 2021. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Golf Park’s pro Erick Ooko Obura and Muthaiga’s amateur Taimur Malik fired two under 69 each to fly Kenya’s flag high at the start of this year’s Magical Kenya Open at the par 71 Karen Golf and Country Club yesterday.

Hot on their heels was another Golf Park pro Toni Omuli who hit a one under par 70 to keep his hopes of making the cut today alive.

At the same time, Benjamin Hebert of France fired seven under par 64 to command the leaderboard in the opening day.

“My swings were perfect, but I made wrong decisions in holes 1,3,13 and 15 where I picked up bogeys, the holes were not challenging at all,” Obura told Standard Sports.

Obura who is dedicating the game to his late father who passed on recently had an amazing eagle in the par-4 hole 9.

His results were boosted with birdies raked in the par-4 hole 7, par-4 hole10, par-5 hole 11 and par-3 hole 16 which also doubles up as a hole-in-one contest.

“I’m not focused on making the cut in round two. That thought will give me undue pressure, I’ll concentrate on my game so that everything falls into place,” Obura said.

Ooko, Malik lead Kenyan charge as France's Herbert tops
Local Pro Simon Ngige is directed by his caddie at the Karen Country Club on March 18, 2021. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

The 32-year old was elated with the performance and the motivation saw him proceed to the range to perfect his long drives ahead of today’s showdown.

Malik was definitely in a class of his own among the six amateurs in contention. He bettered his score with birdies in holes 6, 8, 10 and 12.

Omuli who was the latest inclusion in the Kenyan team proved his worth with a one under par score which he looks forward to better today.

“My putts were very fine, they rolled into place. I was very focused on my game, this helped everything to fall into place.

“I also had a strategy, which was to direct the ball to the fairways and play more greens. I plan to stick to the game plan in the coming rounds,” Omuli said.

Omuli intimated he had a problem in the par-4 hole three which he said used to be a par-5 and is currently playing long and hard.

Omuli had bogeys in the opening hole and in the 13th. He rectified the wrongs by scoring birdies in the second, 11th and 15th.

Ooko, Malik lead Kenyan charge as France's Herbert tops
Golfers relaxing and eating lunch in the bubble on March 18, 2021. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Muthaiga golfer Greg Snow recorded five birdies in holes 1, 8, 11, 15 and 17 to finish the course on level par.

Snow who finished second overall in the recently concluded Safari Tour series was pulled down by a double bogey in the par- 5 hole 6.

Thika’s finest Simon Ngige who was among the two players who made the cut at the event in 2019 did not have a  good start as he finished on one over par 71.

This was also the case with Jacob Okello who reached the final in 1998 and Samuel Njoroge of Railways who is taking part in the event for the first time as a pro.

Nyali junior Adel Balala linked up with the Kenyan camp yesterday at Karen.  Kenya Open Golf Limited General Manager Vincent Wangombe said Balala replaced Muthaiga golfer Mutahi Kibugu whose caddie tested positive for coronavirus.

No past winners finished in top five including Guido Migliozzi of Italy who is defending the trophy.

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