NAIROBI, March 13 (Xinhua) — Lorenzo Gagli hogged the limelight when he won the 2018 Kenya Open golf tournament and the Italian is intent on repeating that experience on Sunday when the PGA European Tour event closes in Nairobi.
Gagli will defend his crown in a field of 144 golfers led by former Europe Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn, and will be seeking an improved performance on last week’s Qatar Masters where he faded to an 88th place finish in Doha.
Gagli, who won through a three-hole sudden-death play-off in Nairobi last year after tying for first with Sweden’s Jens Fahrbring, missed the cut in Qatar but says that he is looking forward to reigniting his form from last year.
“It’s amazing to come back to Kenya. I have a lot of good memories from last year so I’m really excited to play here again. The prizegiving was really fun last year, there was a lot of people including the president of Kenya, so it was really special to be there.”
The Kenya Open was first staged in 1967 and has been won by the likes of Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam and Trevor Immelman, but is this year making its first appearance on the European Tour.
Gagli is not daunted by the challenge of traveling around the world as part of the biggest tour in European golf.
“Sometimes it’s not easy, it’s a tough job, but at the same time it’s really good because you can visit all these countries like Kenya. I love Kenya and Africa. The people are amazing here,” he added.
Gagli was scheduled to tee off in Wednesday’s Pro-Am alongside three Kenyan government officials ahead of the start of tournament proper on Thursday.
The Italian has made two of seven cuts so far this season but has never missed the weekend at this event.
Speaking on the eve of the tournament, fellow Italian Renato Paratore said he also enjoyed the globetrotting nature of life on the European Tour, arriving in Kenya after back-to-back events in the Middle East, and before playing in Malaysia next week.
The 2017 Nordea Masters winner has not played this event before and is expecting a good test at high altitude.
“I feel good. I like the course, it’s a good challenge and also very good weather, so I’m going to enjoy it. You have to play every part of the game well because from the tees and also around the greens is not easy, so it’s a good test,” Paratore stated.
Kenya, which is yet to produce a home winner in its Open, will be represented by 14 professional and six amateur golfers.