Aaron Rai relishing return to ‘home from home’ at Kenya Open

England’s Aaron Rai will feel right at home as he bids to win the Magical Kenya Open for the second time.

Rai was born in Wolverhampton but his mother Dalvir is from Mombasa and had not returned to her home country for more than 40 years until attending the tournament with her son four years ago.

News of his local connection meant Rai had plenty of support as he won the first of three Challenge Tour titles that season to earn instant promotion to the European Tour and the 26-year-old has since won twice on the main circuit, including last year’s Scottish Open.

“It feels like a home away from home here, my mum was born here and my sister lives here in Karen now,” Rai said ahead of the first of two back-to-back events at Karen Country Club.

“It very much has a home feel for me. It’s always going to be a special place with the memories I’ve had here down the years. I don’t think that’s something I’ll ever forget, so I think any time that I’m here to play golf or here full stop is a blessing.”

Reflecting on his three-shot win after a closing 65, Rai added: “It was the first event of the season, I practised well during the off-season and was playing well going into it, which was important.

“But it was key to get off to a good start, I think I was in the top three and close to the lead after the first couple of days and I stayed very calm and patient, and thought very well while I was playing.

“I think on top of that, the support of the people that were there on Saturday and Sunday – I think they found out during the week that my mum was Kenyan and I was a fellow Kenyan – was amazing so it definitely played a role in the victory.

“It meant a huge amount, even looking back on it now four years later. It’s special and probably my fondest memory of any tournament win that I’ve ever had.

“With my mum being born here, it was the first time she had come back since she left as a teenage girl, it was Mother’s Day so it represented another day that was really important to the family.

Aaron Rai
England’s Aaron Rai celebrates with the trophy after winning the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club, North Berwick (Jane Barlow/PA)

“Things like that don’t happen very often, so it was incredible to be able to share that moment with my mum and with it being my first victory on the Challenge Tour, with it being in Kenya, I think whatever I go on to achieve in the future that will always be very close to the top of the list for me.”

With last year’s event cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Italy’s Guido Migliozzi returns to defend the title he won in 2019 on the back of a share of second in the Qatar Masters on Sunday.