Martin Ochaya claimed a shock one-shot lead at the 72nd Tusker Uganda Open at the redesigned par-71 Uganda Golf Club (UGC) Kitante course yesterday.
The Entebbe Artisan, previously only known for his long hitting, carded one-over-par 72 to continue the tradition and add his name to the list of surprise leaders of the country’s premier golfing showpiece whose first edition was held in 1932.
Teeing off from the 10th tee in the amateurs’ last foursome that also had veteran John Waigo (83), Alexander Kasendwa (93) and George Kituku (81), Ochaya didn’t have a good start to his round.
The 26-year-old started with four bogeys on hole No.11, 12, 14 and 16, with only two birdies on No. 15 and 18, easing his woes on the back nine. But he turned on the style at the first nine, sinking three stellar birdies on three par-5s (No.1, 5 & 8).
“Many are surprised that I am in the lead,” said the six-handicapper, who had to borrow a proper golf kit from his brother, professional Dickson Lagoro, on the day. “But I had a game plan. I hit as many fairways as I could, my chipping was good and I also read the putter lines well. I will go for pars again and only a person that plays unders will beat me.”
His other golfing brothers are professional Gerald Ayella, Morris Ongwech (national amateur team manager) and Ronald Kidega, who was also a Day One leader during the 1998 Open, before he fell to eventual winner Stephen ‘Tiger Woods’ Birungi.
But Ochaya will be hoping he can avoid stumbling like Kidega in the last three rounds since a handful of favourites in Adolf Muhumuza (73), national captain Phillip Kasozi (74), Willy Kitata (75), Happy Robert (75) and Robert Oluba (75) are breathing down his neck.
“The greens were not as fast as I would have loved,” bemoaned Muhumuza, whose round comprised of three birdies and five bogeys. “My chipping was awful. I have to sharpen my short game,” said Kasozi.
“I failed to read the greens and missed many one-meter putts. I also double-bogeyed the par-4 No. 7. Now I have to give every shot a chance to keep my dream alive,” added Kitata, who is joint fourth with Happy, Oluba and Alam Faiz.
Earlier on Tuesday, Zimbabwe’s Charles Tongoona Charamba, with a round of two-under 69, won the first-ever Pro-Am event in the history of the Open. The prize giving was held at Sheraton Hotel. Uganda’s Deo Akope (71) plus the Kenyan pair of Dismas Indiza (72) and Simon Ngige (73) followed in that order. Ngige had the last laugh by inspiring Team Guinness, to the overall title.
DAY 1 LEADERBOARD
Martin Ochaya 72
Adolf Muhumuza 73
Phillip Kasozi 74
Willy Kitata 75
Happy Robert 75
Robert Oluba 75
Alam Faiz 75
Abbey Bagalana 76
Ronald Otile 76
L. Muhenda 76
Results – Tusker Pro-Am
Guinness 221 nett
KK Security 223
Case Medical 227
Sheraton Hotel 228
Nearest to the Pin
Elly ‘Sober’ Mukasa