Battle for regional glory finally begins

What you need to know:

  • 12 teams set to parade at the Nyali Golf and Country Club in Mombasa this morning as the Africa Zone Six Championship gets underway

Mombasa

The showdown is finally on today when 10 countries, represented by teams of eight each, converge on the par 71 Nyali Golf and Country Club course for Africa’s most prestigious amateur team title, the Africa Zone Six Golf Championship.

Earlier, 12 teams - Kenya, South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Namibia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Lesotho and Uganda - registered for the championship which rotates between the Zone Six and Five countries.

However, Uganda and Lesotho did not show up for the official opening ceremony presided over by sports assistant minister, Kabando wa Kabando.

Uganda were reported to have encountered financial problems while there was no word from Lesotho who have participated in very few events since the championship was first played in 1982 in Botswana.

But tournament director, David Nyakang’o, said the two countries had been given up to 6pm on Tuesday.

But by Tuesday night, the two teams had not arrived.

“If they show up by at least 6pm this evening, we will include them in the tournament,’’ said Nyakang’o.

Joined the fray

The first round singles draw, which was to be released before the official opening ceremony, was delayed because of the two countries.

“The team managers meeting agreed to give Lesotho and Uganda up to the evening since Uganda had called to say that they be given up to 2pm yesterday (Tuesday).”

All the same, the remaining 10 countries are all set for the event being hosted in Kenya for the third time since Kenya joined the fray as a honorary member in 1989.

Kenya hosted the Zone Six tournament in 1995 at the Windsor Golf Hotel and Country Club. In 2002, the tournament was held at the Leisure Lodge Golf Resort, south of Mombasa.

Ever since South Africa first came into the Africa Zone Six in 1993, they have won back-to-back titles until last year when Kenya beat them by one and half points at the Gaborone Golf Club in Botswana.

Kenya Golf Union chairman Parshu Hirani, who was then the team manager, said on Tuesday that Kenya was still fielding a strong team despite David Opati’s injury.

“The team is very strong and I am confident that we will retain the trophy,” he said.

South Africa which has replaced a number of players will, meanwhile, still be the team to watch while other strong challenge will come from Zimbabwe and Namibia.

The first round gets underway at 8.00am on Wednesday followed by a special tournament involving team managers and officials from 1.00pm.

Reigning Major champions

Meanwhile, Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee on Tuesday said conditions at this week’s Malaysian Open would give Asian players a good chance of beating a field containing three reigning Major champions.

Newly-crowned Masters winner Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, compatriot and British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen and PGA Championship holder Martin Kaymer will lead a stellar field at the $2.5 million tournament.

Thongchai tees off at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club tomorrow with German world number one Kaymer and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, who will be keen to make amends for his disappointment at Augusta.

The Thai was upbeat about prospects for an Asian winner. “You never know what will happen in golf. There are strong players on the Asian Tour.”

Additional reporting by AFP

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