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Kenya Open heads to European Tour with government backing

The Kenyan government has signed on as the new title sponsor of the Kenya Open as the tournament prepares to make its debut on golf’s European Tour.

Following the tournament’s continued success on the Challenge Tour for the past 25 years, the 2019 Kenya Open will see an elevated prize purse of €1.1m ($1.26m) when it is held at the Karen Country Club in Nairobi from March 14-17.

Barclays Bank of Kenya has served as title sponsor for the past nine years, but cabinet secretary for Tourism and Wildlife Najib Balala said the government has set aside €2.2m to take on the rights for the next three years. The tournament will now be known as the Magical Kenya Open Golf Championship.

The deal is part of an ongoing drive by the government to bolster Kenya’s status as a tourist destination. The country received two million visitors last year and is targeting 2.5 million by 2022.

“The event will now be about the magical Kenyans who have made it possible to have this competition elevated from the Challenge Tour to main tour,” Balala said, according to Kenyan newspaper the Daily Nation. “It shows that Kenyans are more resilient and our objective now is to have Kenyans seen worldwide.”

Barclays will now serve as one of a number of lower-tier sponsors for the tournament, including Kenya Breweries, Hemmingway’s Nairobi, Coca-Cola, Wilken Group, Copycat, AAR, Nation Media Group, DStv and Meridian Group.

Tournament director Patrick Obath said €3m will be needed to host the event following major improvements to the course.