Combining golf and tourism at 29 luxurious golf courses around the world, the Kenya Airways Golf Safari Series is going from strength to strength. We look back on the last series and forward to the next competition
The KQ Golf Safari Series is an annual contest that sees KQ host a series of golf tournaments in the various destinations served by the national carrier. In each tournament, amateur golfers play against each other for top honours. Winners from all the tournaments converge in Nairobi for the ultimate Grand Finale at the end of the series. The Grand Finale winner secures a ticket to watch the British Open in Scotland.
Kenya Airways held the series 2014/2015 edition over five months in a larger format, as compared to previous years, that saw the inclusion of more clubs and players to meet the growing popularity of the sport. The Grand Finale event was won by Muthaiga golfer Joseph Njagi, who was awarded a ticket for two and will be travelling to Scotland to watch the 144th British Open at St. Andrews this month.
Other notable beaters in the series were a ten-year-old girl, Yohan Rizvi (Seychelles), and 15-year-old Prabh Lochab (Kenya).
In order to increase the tournament success, Kenya Airways has partnered with some key players in the market including the Kenya Golf Union (KGU) and extended invitations to the Kenya Tourism Board and the Kenya Open Championship.
The series finalists qualify for the Grand Finale from the Country Qualifying Rounds, which are held at selected clubs between October and March. Three players with the best qualifying scores from each club/zone and two players from each country are eligible to play in the Grand Finale.
Any qualifying player who is unable to attend the finals sees the player with the next best score, and so on, eligible to represent that club in the Grand Finale.
If any outlying Club/Zone is unable to send the full number of qualifiers, then the number of qualifiers from the Nairobi clubs is correspondingly increased.
Golfers are allowed to try and qualify for the Grand Finale from any of the clubs they are members at.
The 2015/2016 Series
The next tournament will run for five months, starting in October 2015. It will be an expanded edition with a larger format and more legs across Africa, Asia and the Middle East. There are also plans to add new destinations in Europe.
There were two young winners in the last KQ Golf Safari Series, providing inspiration for the next generation of golfers. Ten-year-old Yohan Rizvi, surprised many when she won the Seychelles leg at the Reef Golf Hotel in the capital Mahe in January 2014 and 15-year-old Kenyan, Prabh Lochab, won the Eldoret leg last December.
Many did not expect standard five pupil, Yohan Rizvi, to beat the other 55 contestants in Mahe (including single figure handicapped players) to book a berth in the Grand Finale.
On her way to victory, handicap 25 Rizvi had nine pars, six single bogeys and four double bogeys for a total 40 stable ford points. The win saw Rizvi clinch two KQ return tickets to any destination across Africa and a beautiful trophy to boot.
“I am surprised by the win. I didn’t expect it. I had not trained enough because of my tight schedule at school. I thank God for this victory and my father for allowing me to play golf today,” said Rizvi after the tournament.
Rizvi is no stranger to victory as she had surprised many by winning a 54-hole club championship contest in 2013 after beating over 50 experienced golfers. She was only nine years old at the time.
Fifteen-year-old Prabh Lochab beat a crowded field of 105 golfers to win the sixth leg
of the series at par 71 Eldoret Golf Club on December 6, 2014.
Playing off handicap 20, Lochab, a year ten student at Gulab Lochab Academy in Eldoret, bogeyed overall 41 stable ford points to emerge the winner of the leg after bagging 21 points in the front nine and 20 in the back nine.
Apart from qualifying for the Grand Finale, Lochab won two return tickets for any KQ destination across Africa. Lochab also attributed his win and golf success to his parents who he said gave him ample time to train and play competitive games both in Eldoret and in other parts of Kenya.
“I feel impressed that I could emerge the winner of such a hotly contested tournament,” Lochab noted.
Joseph Njagi, Winner 2014/2015
How old are you and what do you do for a living?
I am 36 years old, an architect by profession. I am married with one child.
How did you come to know about the KQ golf safari series?
Through my sister who is also a golfer. My sister and a friend of mine told me they had slotted me in for the KQ tournament that was coming to Muthaiga that weekend in January. I had no option but to play.
Did you win at Muthaiga?
No. I bagged men’s runner-up which qualified me for the Grand Finale. I still have the prize ticket. Hopefully I will use it to take my wife and child to Mombasa for a holiday.
What was the secret of your success in the final at Windsor?
I practised a lot a week before the tournament. I also watched a lot of YouTube videos, the ‘Ultra Simple Golf’, which gave me tips on how to stay on the greens, keep the ball on fairways and perfect my putts.
How do you feel about winning the prize to go to the British Open in St Andrews? Who will you travel with?
I will go with my wife and son. They are my life. This opportunity is a dream come true. I hope to see my role model Tiger Woods in action at St Andrews. I also hope to tour historic sites with my family while in Scotland.
What’s your take on KQ Golf Safaris?
It’s fun and exciting. There’s a lot of travelling, networking and interaction involved.
Do you think the series lived up to its expectations?
Yes, the turnout was great in all courses. The tournament was well organised. The prizes and gift hampers were just the right ones.