The battle for supremacy among Kenya's elite amateur golfers shift to the century old Royal Nairobi Golf Club course this weekend for the 2018 edition of the annual Uhuru Shield golf championship.
Being the second from last event in the countrywide Kenya Amateur Golf Championship (KAGC) series formerly Golfer of The Year (GOTY), this weekend's Uhuru Shield has attracted all the top amateurs, who will be battling it out for the Shield, in addition to some points towards the KAGC and World Amateur Ranking.
Currently, Kenya Railway Golf Club's Samuel Njoroge and Limuru Country Club's John Karichu are engaged in a neck-and-neck battle for the KAGC title, where the winner will automatically qualify to play in the now European Tour-sanctioned Kenya Open.
The handicap plus one Njoroge is leading at the moment with a total of 481.1 points based on the best 10 events he has played, leading by only four points from the Limuru- based Karichu, a former GOTY champion, who has collected a total of 477.6 points, making it a tight race this year, which may be decided at the season's grand finale at Nyali Golf and Country Club on December 16.
So far, Njoroge has won four events in the series namely Nyanza Open, Tea Fields trophy in Kericho, Karen Challenge and the Kenya Amateur Open Strokeplay Championship, which saw him qualify for the Kenya Open.
Also qualifying for the Open is South Africa-based Daniel Nduva, who won the Match Play Championship title, and so did not see the need to come home and defend the Open Strokeplay title he won last year at his home course of Nyali.
Karichu on the other hand only won the season opener Sigona Bowl in January at Sigona, clinched the Trans Nzoia Open in Kitale and later the Kabete Open at Vet Lab. He has however managed to pick up some points by finishing in the top five in the most of the other events.
He needs to win the series in order to qualify for the Open.
But on the other hand, a win for Njoroge this weekend may reduce the chances of Karichu reclaiming the title.
Karichu is in excellent form at the moment and definitely a worthy opponent to Njoroge not only for this weekend, but in the prestigious KAGC title as a whole.
Still at Royal, besides the two leading players Njoroge and Karichu, others also chasing the Uhuru Shield will be Vet Lab Sports Club's Edwin Mudanyi with a score of 339.9 points. Mudanyi, a fine player and probably a pro material, has not been very consistent this season unlike last year, where he won a good number of events and made several top five finishes.
He does not seems to be having a good chance of clinching the series title, unless he wins the remaining two events including this weekend's Uhuru Shield, and the Nyali Open, which is the season's grand finale.
But again, this will also depend on Njoroge and Karichu not making the top five positions at Royal and Nyali.
Also going for the Shield will be Robinson Owiti, who won the Limuru Open and Railway Invitation. He heads a strong team from Vet Lab, which include Mike Kisia, Isaiah Otuke, youngster Leo Zurovac, Isaac Makokha and Ebill Omollo.
Coming from Limuru besides Karichu, will be Paul Muchangi and John Kariuki, while from Railway, Njoroge be accompanied by John Lejirmah and George Felix.
During last year's event, home player Dennis Saikwa put up a strong fight to eventually keep the Shield at home.
Unfortunately, Saikwa will not be able to defend his title since he has applied for membership in the Professional Golfers of Kenya (PGK).
In his absence, the home club will depend on players like Kevin Juma, Joseah Kogo, Jay Sandhu, and Quram Bhatt.
Bhatt and Sandhu were no in the entry list though entries were closing at 6pm on Wednesday, so they still had a chance of listing their names for the final draw.
The format of the event, which has been taking place annually over the past 55 years, remains 54-hole stroke play with the first two rounds to be played on Saturday and the final round set for Sunday morning.