Kenya’s biggest golf event takes place in March each year, usually in the same week as the prestigious Players Championship on the PGA Tour. Founded in 1967, the tournament first featured on the Far East Circuit, before progressing to the Safari Circuit and on to the Challenge Tour between the years of 1991 and 2018. That steadily increasing profile culminated in a promotion to the European Tour proper in 2019.
The tournament has always taken place on one of the two main Nairobi courses, alternating between the Karen Country Club and Muthaiga Golf Club. The Muthaiga course places a strong emphasis on accuracy from the tee and is regarded as the trickier of the two venues.
A whole host of famous names have strutted their stuff around here over the years, with the list of previous winners including the legendary Seve Ballesteros, Masters champ Trevor Immelman, and Ian Woosnam. The name of England’s Maurice Bembridge may not be quite as recognisable as the aforementioned trio, but it was he who became the first three-time winner of the event – claiming top spot in 1967, ‘68, and ‘79.
|2023||Muthaiga Golf Club||Jorge Campillo|
|2022||Muthaiga Golf Club||Ashun Wu|
2023: Jorge Campillo
There was a strong Spanish and Japanese flavour to the top of the leaderboard at the end of the first leg of the DP World Tour’s African swing in 2023. In the end, it was 36-year-old Jorge Campillo who came out on top to land a third DP World Tour event, and first since the 2020 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
Despite being only one shot clear of the field headed into the final round, Campillo rarely looked like relinquishing the lead. Flying out of the blocks with four birdies in the space of five holes on the front nine, the Caceres native quickly disheartened those in the chasing pack. His pace slowed on the back nine, but a final round 66, which featured six birdies and just one bogey, was enough to see him finish on 18 under for the tournament and two shots clear of his nearest pursuer.
Campillo pocketed €321,247.98 for his four days of work, moving up to eighth in the Race to Dubai, and climbing 100 spots to sit 159th in the World Rankings. Japan’s Masahiro Kawamura finished alone in second, with Ryo Histatsune and Santiago Tarrio finishing a shot further back in a tie for third. 20-year-old Hisatsune again created a strong impression at the event with his 63 on Day Two being the best round of the tournament
Other highlights at the tournament included local player Mutahi Kibugi birdieing the last to make the cut on Day Two. Ronaldo Rugumayo, meanwhile, became the first Ugandan player to hit a hole-in-one on the DP World Tour when firing his eight iron in from the tee on the par-three second.
2022: Ashun Wu
If you only looked at the leaderboard for the 2022 Magical Kenya Open after the tournament ended you might well have thought that Ashun Wu cruised to victory. The 36 year old won finished four shots better than the three players tied for second place – Thriston Lawrence, Hurly Long and Aaron Cockerill – at Muthaiga Golf Club but his position was nowhere near as strong heading into the final round.
Scotland’s Ewen Ferguson held a commanding lead at the 54 hole stage. Rounds of 66, 67 and 66 gave Ferguson his own four-shot lead at the start of play on Sunday. The challenge of seeing that position out for a maiden win on the DP World Tour proved too much for him though. Ferguson’s closing round of 76 opened the door for his opponents and it was Wu who stepped through.
Wu is experienced enough to not take early setbacks too hard. So when he went through the first three holes at +1 for his final round he did not panic. His next seven holes yielded five birdies to put him in command and he then played par golf from holes 11 to 16 before finishing with a birdie-birdie flourish.