KAMPALA. For the golf global audience, the stage in 2018 was illuminated by Tiger Woods’ first tournament win in five years at the season-ending Tour Championship in September.
And that’s notwithstanding Italian Francisco Molinari’s classic route to the Open success at Carnoustie.
On the local scene, Ronald Otile’s sapping yet incredible comeback to win the Uganda Amateur Open, Eva Magala’s steel on the continent and evergreen Fred Wanzala lit up the greens.
September 22, 2018 will forever be memorable for Otile and his fans. It was a day that brought the best out of perhaps, Uganda’s best golfer in the last decade.
To win his third Uganda Open title in four years, Otile had to come from six strokes down before seeing Kenyan pair of John Karichu and Edwin Mudanyi at the par-71 course in Entebbe on the same dramatic day he made 22.
He would finish with an aggregate score of 285 gross after four rounds and bask in the limelight after a gruesome race, one he’ll live to tell even when Otile crosses to paid ranks soon.
Poor national team showing
There is just not enough to describe the series of emotions for the big gallery whose blushes were saved closest to the clubhouse that day.
The manner and magnitude of Otile’s triumph rendered other victories for amateur male players in other club events over 2018 pretty mild.
On the other hand, Otile relieved the amateur ranks of shame in a year where the national team struggled to replicate any recent years’ continental success.
May be, it will take some unique for Uganda to pass the test in the Victoria Golf Cup. Now counting all three editions, the country’s is swept by Kenya in the East African version of the Ryder Cup.
This time, at the Vet Lab Sports Club in Nairobi, Kenya humbled Uganda by 11 points in the match-play format.
The year had already been a tough one in April when Uganda came a distant fifth at the Africa Zone V Golf Championships at the Chapman Golf Club in Harare, Zimbabwe.
But somehow, a week after wiping tears at Vet Lab, Ronald Rugumayo charged up his unit again and they floored the opposition in Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda to win the Africa Region IV Golf Championships at the Nyali Golf & Country Club.
Late yet soft landing for Kihika
That victory seemed to offer Innocent Kihika a late but rather soft landing into the position as Uganda Golf Union (UGU) president, taking over from Johnson Omollo.
Kihika’s impact on the game was much witnessed in the five-in-one Uganda Golf Open that had several spices in a pretty new-look package being played at Entebbe for the first time in five years.
He even crowned the year by dining with the sponsors and key stakeholders of the game as a ‘Thank You’. Rare! Obviously, Kihika had worked hand in hand with Magala to see most through. Magala as well took over from ever jolly Maximilian Byenkya to become Uganda Ladies Golf Union (ULGU) president.
But Magala took it out of office to the course. She unanimously wins the Lady Golfer of the Year honour, if any, for she was really classic. It is understandable she couldn’t bake the cake then eat it herself at the Uganda Ladies Open, finishing in eighth place as Tanzanian Neema Olomi won.
Magala had prior guided Uganda to fourth place at the All-Africa Challenge Trophy after finishing seventh overall at the Achimota Golf Club in Ghana.
She would return to West Africa to beat the land’s best pair Rachael Danjuma and Wilfred Amina to win the Nigeria Ladies Open in a feat she described as her best ever.
That’s all in a year where Magala won the lone ladies’ ticket to the Windhoek Lager Championship in Namibia, Mbarara Ladies Open, JBG Open (ladies) and also topping the Eldoret Open leaderboard in Kenya.
The pros, bolstered by a mass migration of stars from amateur ranks, still struggled to stop the foreign legion at the Uganda Open, Kenyan Dismas Indiza winning it for a record fifth time. Denis Anguyo’s push there stood out, more like Phillip Kasozi making a rare cut on the Sunshine Tour during the Zambia Open in late April.
Kasozi tied 28th at the Uganda Open but produced some fine rounds to beat Kigo’s home boy Fred Wanzala to win the Serena Open.
Wanzala, who had shockingly missed the cut at the Open, displayed signs of anger and revenge by obliterating the field by 16 shots to win the Pepsi Independence Open in Kakungulu. He then went on to win the Entebbe Chairman’s Cup to add to close shaves in the Singleton Challenge, JBG Open among others over the year.
The birth of new tournaments like the Tusker Series and the Uganda Open build-up imply more action on cards in 2019.