Even with an early six-shot lead after Day One, Martha Babirye still needed to overcome a series of hurdles to win the 69th Castle Lite Uganda Ladies Golf Open title in Kigo at the weekend.
The twin shelved off pain from a troublesome right knee and stealthily held onto her an overnight one-stroke advantage to defeat three-time winner Tanzanian Angel Eaton and friendly foe Irene Nakalembe amid a heavy downpour at par-72 Lake Victoria Serena Golf Resort & Spa on Saturday.
With the rain only relegating to drizzles, a wet Babirye was crowned champion about 7pm after a round of 15-over par 87 but there was little to mind as she had finished with the best aggregate score of 242 gross after 54 holes.
“This was my dream to win the Uganda Open,” a relaxed Babirye, clad in elegant orange and black African wear, would later say after picking her trophy and prizes from chief guest Minister of Works Monica Ntege Azuba and Isuzu general manager Mohamed Khadr. The 23-year-old, who joined the game four years ago in Jinja, could have actually lost the title in the rain but she held on to relegate Nakalembe to an Open bridesmaid again, for the third time in four years.
“Today was the most interesting day,” Babirye stated in her victory speech. “It was raining and I was having a bad knee. I had a 7 on par-5 Hole No.8 and another 7 on Hole par-4 No.9. When I saw people happy with me getting those scores, I told myself ‘I am fighter’. So I went on and fought to win.
“I thank my husband David. The best thing he did this week was to travel to USA. I thank Dr Katy Kabenge for sponsoring me, Patrick Billy who has paid my green fees for now two years at Uganda Golf Club and my role model Flavia Namakula.”
Teeing-off a shot behind Nakalembe in a pressure group comprising three-time winner Eaton and another Tanzanian Hawa Wanyeche, Babirye, who capitulated to lose the lead and finish second last year, had had to be clinical this time.
Technically, Babirye had already picked a mental edge over Eaton as she had an experienced caddie in Robert Ssenteza, who helped Eaton win the Open in 2012, 2013 and 2017.
Babirye increased her lead by a shot when she carded level while Nakalembe shot a bogey on par-5 Hole No.2 but when the rains began, that advantage was nullified after they interchanged the scores on the short par-3 Hole No.4.
Nakalembe faltered again with a double-bogey on par-3 No.7 whereas Babirye responded with a par to gain a three-shot lead.
The pair were level once Babirye got a double-bogey whereas Nakalembe carded a birdie on the ensuing hole and the latter led by two shots when Babirye scored a triple-bogey vis-à-vis her bogey on No.9.
Babirye would level matters on Hole No.14 but once Nakalembe hit into the water on par-4 Hole No.16 to card a triple-bogey, the twin’s double-bogey gave her a one-shot lead again and she never looked back.
“The weather changed my entire game plan,” Nakalembe, also runner-up in 2016 and 2017, told this paper. “I gave away the trophy on No.16 but I will try again next year.”
UGANDA LADIES OPEN PREVIOUS WINNERS
2018: Martha Babirye (Uganda)
2017: Neema Olomi (Tanzania)
2017: Angel Eaton (Tanzania)
2016: Flavia Namakula (Uganda)
2015: Flavia Namakula (Uganda)
2014: Flavia Namakula (Uganda)
2013: Angel Eaton (Tanzania)
2012: Angel Eaton (Tanzania)
2011: Flavia Namakula (Uganda)
2010: Flavia Namakula (Uganda)
2009: Jasper Kamukama (Uganda)
2008: Melissa Nawa (Zambia)
2007: Mary Karano (Kenya)
2006: Mary Karano (Kenya)
2005: Sophie Viggo (Tanzania)
2004: Rose Naliaka (Kenya)
2003: Esther Okullo (Uganda)