Krish Shah had a contrasting back nine and front nine in a thrilling final round of the Kenya Junior Strokeplay championship at the Muthaiga Golf Club in Nairobi.
Shah won the tournament by one stroke at the end of a gruelling four rounds. Going into the fourth round, he had a one stroke lead over second placed Mikael Kihara. He was already nine shots ahead by the sixth hole, but Kihara managed to reduce the gap to six shots by the end of the first nine.
In the second nine, Shah was a bag of nerves as he hit two double bogeys and two bogeys in quick succession. Kihara on the other hand started with a birdie then a bogey.
Half way through the second nine, Ewan Van Niekerk who started off in third place had picked an impressive three birdies to join the party. Shah, Kihara and Ewan were tied for the lead, but then Shah picked a birdie at number 15 with Ewan and Kihara playing level par.
The three all played level par in hole 16 and 17, with Ewan finishing off with a birdie at number 18 while Shah and Kihara played level par for the close finish.
Shah said he made consecutive mistakes and Kihara and Ewan are very good players who took full advantage of his mistakes.
“The first nine was very good, but the second nine started at hole 11 where it wasn’t good from there. I came back at hole 15 (with a birdie) which made it fine. But it should have been easier than I made it, eeh!! Stress,” said Shah.
Kihara on the other hand says he had a very shaky start that messed his first nine.
“After a good start, I hit a triple bogey and a double bogey then a bogey. I think he (Shah) had basically gone with it but I said it is not over until it is over, so I just kept it going and said six is not a lot of shots as you saw in the back nine,” he explained.
On what worked in the second nine, Kihara said “I started making the par putts and he felt a bit of the pressure, but brought it back at hole number 15 which was good to see, and I loved the competition.”
The dark horse on the final round was Ewan Van Niekerk, and he had a remarkable run from ten shots off the lead in round one to finishing in third position only two shots behind the winner.
“I had nothing to lose because I was chasing which was very comfortable for me and unfortunately, I started with a bad round 1(85, ten shots behind the leader), so I just said I might as well attack and go for it and there is nothing to lose. I came back, the tactic worked! Said a beaming Ewan.
At some point in the second nine, he thought of challenging for the title.
“I think at hole number 13, I saw Krish was struggling a bit and I was thinking maybe if I can just play pars and a couple of birdies, I think I can go for it because hole 18 I knew I will get a birdie; hole 17 I tried to go aggressive and get another birdie and try put more pressure. But otherwise I played how I would usually play,” he explained.
The final scores had Krish Shah on +21 as the winner, Mikael Kihara on +20 in second place and Ewan Van Niekerk on +21 in third place.