Defending champions, Kenya, Wednesday put up a spirited fight but came behind rivals South Africa to take up the runners-up slot on half a point difference at the single rounds match play of the start of the 2011 Africa Zone Six Golf Championships being played at the par 71 Nyali Golf and Country Club course in Mombasa.
South Africa, who came to the tournament hoping to reclaim the title they lost for the first time in decades to Kenya last year at Gaberone, Botswan, led the board on seven points against Kenya’s 6.5.
Kenyans won all the matches except Boniface Simwa, who lost to 2-1-2 to Namibia’s Glen del kaal and James Karanja who halved aganst Zambia’s A. Sinfukwe.
The South Africans also won all their matches but lost one 4-3 to Namibia. Tanzania was third on 4.5points, while Namibia and Malawi tied on 4 points.
Zimbabwe was fifth on 3.5 points, Mozambique and Swaziland had three points each to share the sixth slot. Zambia had 2.5 points for the seventh place, while Botswana trailed on two points.
Kenya Team was hit when one of its top players David Opati of Golf Park was ruled out of the 2011 Africa Zone Six Golf Championships after suffering from a serious right hand injury.
The championship, which attracted 12 African countries, saw Uganda and Lesotho pull out in the last minute.
Kenya Team coach Ali Kimani put up a brave face and replaced Opati with reserve player Amos Kamau from Leisure Lodge Golf Resort Club in South Coast of Mombasa.
Opati started feeling pain on his right arm during the Muthaiga Open Championships only to be told by his doctor that he had a fractured arm. He was later advised to keep off playing golf for at least two weeks, thus ruling him out of the championships.
Other players who make up the team under Kimani includes Royal Nairobi’s Jay Sandhu, Limuru’s Francis Kimani (captain), the Muthaiga trio of Stefan Andersen, Collins Omondi and Nelson Mudanyi.
Amateur World Cup team member, Vet Lab’s Boniface Simwa and James Karanja of Limuru complete the line up.
Kenya is facing an up hill task task in defending the title they won in Botswana last year after a tough fight with the South Africans.
South Africa have strong team, which includes the current South African stroke play champion, Kwa Zulu Natal’s Jared Harvey.
Harvey may still be bitter with Kenya’s Anderson who beat him 3-2 to clinch the trophy for Kenyans to lift the trophy at Gaberone.
Other players are Coenie Bester (Gauteng North), Daniel Hammond (Central Gauteng), Ruan de Smidt (Central Guateng), Hendre Cilliers (Gauteng North), Rikus Nortje (Southern Cape), CJ du Plessis (Limpopo) and Captain Ryan Dreyer (Central Gauteng).
Kenya last hosted the event in 2002 at Leisure Lodge Golf Resort in South Coast of Mombasa, which had initially been chosen to host this year’s tournament.
The event is played in a similar format as the Ryder Cup, were the players play singles, four-ball better-ball and foursomes match play.
Today, the golfers play the second round foursome’s matches in the morning before the third round 4-B-B-B matches are played in the afternoon.
Tomorrow, they play the fourth round singles matches in the morning before playing the longest drive contest from the 16th fairways and shoot out contest from the 18th green in the afternoon.
The flag lowering ceremony and handing back of the course to captain of Nyali Golf Club will be done in afternoon to mark the end of the championships with the prize giving ceremony and dinner at night.