The Wolverhampton golfer – a former Shropshire & Herefordshire junior – has a special connection to this week’s venue Karen Country Club, where he triumphed four years ago.
It was his first of three Challenge Tour victories, and the win came on Mothers’ Day as his own mother watched on proudly, having returned to her birthplace for the first time since leaving as a teenager. Additionally, Rai’s sister now calls Karen, the neighbourhood in the outskirts of Nairobi which hosts this week’s event, her home.
While the crowds will not be there to support him this week, Rai is feeling confident that his connections to the club, and the country, can give him a timely boost.
He said: “It feels like a home away from home here, my mum was born here and my sister lives here in Karen now. 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.
“It was the first event of the season in 2017, I practiced 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 and it was amazing the support that I had so it definitely played a role in the victory. It’s just a shame that there won’t be the same crowds here this week but it’s just awesome that we’re here and playing this week.
“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. It’s just the history, 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.”