Home Sports Golf Dutch Darius van Driel wins maiden Kenya Open at Muthaiga

Dutch Darius van Driel wins maiden Kenya Open at Muthaiga

Darius Van Driel claimed his maiden World Tour title in wire-to-wire fashion with a closing 67 at the magical Kenya Open that culminated Sunday at Muthaiga Golf Club,Nairobi.

An opening 66 set the tone and the Dutchman made just four bogeys all week in a 14 under total, finishing two ahead of England’s Joe Dean and Spaniard Nacho Elvira.

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Qualifying School graduate Dean – who just last week was working as a delivery driver – had 12 feet for eagle on the last to pile the pressure on Van Driel but had to settle for a birdie and a beautiful chip on the last from the leader set up a closing gain and an ultimately comfortable win.

It was a nip-and-tuck afternoon at Muthaiga Golf Club, with a four-way tie for the lead around the turn before Van Driel eagled the tenth to take control.

The 34-year-old’s golfing journey has been a remarkable one, with him giving up the game for a number of years after breaking his hand in a banana boat accident, but he decided to turn professional after finishing second at the 2015 Alps Tour Q-School.

He won the Order of Merit in his maiden season and then graduated from the European Challenge Tour in 2019, the same season he lost in the final of the Belgian Knockout to Guido Migliozzi on the World Tour.

Another runner-up finish came at the 2021 European Open and while he lost his card last season, he regained it at the Qualifying School and is now a winner in his 112th appearance.

The win – the first in 2,198 days for a Dutch player on the World Tour  – moves Van Driel up to sixth on  the race to Dubai rankings and eighth on the International swing.

“It means a lot… it’s a dream come true,” said an emotional Van Driel.

“As a kid you dream on the putting green…’this is for a win on the Challenge Tour’ or ‘this is for a win on the World Tour’. Now it’s finally there, it’s what you always dream of. I was calm, but once the last put went in I felt the emotions. I never thought it would hit that hard but it did.

“I saw that everybody was around ten (under) and Manuel (Elvira) was also around there so in my head it was a bit of one v one so me making eagle and him making par (on the tenth) was a bit of a difference. That was a good one.

“I thought 17 is a reasonable birdie hole, 18 is a good birdie or eagle opportunity so I thought in my head maybe 12, 13 (under wins) so if I can get to 14, I’m pretty safe. That was the number I had in my head at the start of the round as well.”

Nacho Elvira’s younger brother Manuel made the first move of the day from the leaders as he got lucky to avoid hitting the trees on the third and left himself 15 feet to take the lead.

Van Driel followed him in from ten feet and while Manuel Elvira bogeyed the fifth after hitting an ugly shank from the bunker, he hit back by making the most of the par-five seventh.

There was soon a four-way tie for the lead, with Spaniard Adrian Otaegui setting the target at 11 under after a 65 but Van Driel burst clear with his eagle at the tenth courtesy of a brilliant 40-foot right-to-lefter.

He dropped a shot at the par-three next after missing the green but had the putter going and a 25-foot effort on the 12th restored his cushion.

England’s Matthew Jordan had reduced the deficit to one after he took on the par-four 17th and got up and down for a sixth birdie of the day but he bogeyed the last after going out of bounds off the tee and a 66 left him in the clubhouse at 11 under alongside Otaegui.

A Manuel Elvira bogey on the 14th meant the nearest challengers on course were three back but the pack were not giving up the chase.

Dean had bogeyed the seventh but he picked up shots on the ninth, tenth, 13th and 15th to get to 11 under, where he was joined by Nacho Elvira, who left himself a tap-in at the 17th after birdies on the second, seventh, tenth and 14th and a dropped shot on the ninth.

An up-and-down on the last for a 66 from Nacho Elvira meant Van Driel’s lead was just one stood on the 18th tee and Dean also moved to 12 under with his two-putt birdie on the last in a 67.

Van Driel was nerveless, however, coming up just short of the green in two and getting up and down, with Manuel Elvira also making a birdie in a closing 70 to finish in a three-way tie for fourth 11 under.

Scottish pair Ewen Ferguson and Connor Syme finished at ten under, one clear of South African Deon Germishuys and Frenchman Jeong weon Ko, whose closing 64 was the lowest round of the week.

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