Martha Babirye’s nimble steps of consistency over the years have now matured to earn her name a right to be part of every conversation at regional golf clubhouses.
The twin has since picked up the favourite’s tag and she will have most attention from the pundits when the 69th Castle Lite Uganda Ladies Open tees-off at the Lake Victoria Serena Golf Resort & Spa today.
“I am very ready,” Babirye told Daily Monitor in an interview early this week. “You cannot predict what will happen in the tournament but expectations are high and I want to win,” said the 2018 Open runner-up.
Babirye, who tees-off first in the company of Zimbabwean Louise Chingona and Kenyan Wayua Mululu on Hole No.10, has peaked at the right time. Returning from holiday where she played some golf at Leisure Lodge Resort, Nyali and Vipingo Ridge courses in Mombasa, Babirye sent out a message of intent by beating her more experienced colleagues at the Uganda Golf Club Ladies Open in Kitante last weekend.
The 23-year-old should be heading to Kigo to defend the Open title but fate befell her. She led on Day One but withered midway the second round amid immense pressure only for Tanzanian Neema Olomi spring from out of the blue and ‘steal’ the title last year.
Babirye still regrets; “Pressure came in and I succumbed. I was sad but it was a learning moment.”
A year later, Babirye’s handicap has dropped from six to four and the aspects of her game have greatly improved with support from five-time Open champion Flavia Namakula - now a professional.
“I have been picking some valuable lessons on how to handle pressure,” said the lady who left Jinja for Kampala in 2015.
The par-72 Kigo greens are super fast with every hole guarded with water which calls for utmost caution and putting precision but Babirye says she has done enough homework.
“Kigo is my home course. I will be making a year there in November and that is one of the advantages I have,” she added. But Babirye must persevere some pain in her right knee over the three ‘tough’ rounds and contain defending champion Olomi, who is targeting nothing short of victory.
“I am here and ready for it,” said the Arusha Gymkhana Club player who ended Namakula and Angel Eaton’s eight-year Open dominance. Olomi tees-off alongside Ugandans Prudence Nimukama and Wendy Angu’Deyo.
However no one should write off Irene Nakalembe, who finished third last year, in the 68-man field. The record five-time Entebbe Ladies Open winner Nakalembe was bridesmaid twice as Namakula won by six strokes and Tanzanian Angel Eaton triumphed by two shots at Kitante in 2016 and 2017.
The field also has Tooro’s darling Peace Kabasweka who came second at Kitante on Saturday, Tanzanians Idd Madina, Vicky Elias and Eaton.
Nigerians led by their Ladies Golf president Eranem Ekuweme, Grace Luka and Bose Onwuegbu are also in the fray.
Consistency. Babirye stroked two rounds of 74 and 75 for a total of 149 to win the Uganda Golf Club Ladies Open by one stroke last week.
2019 Uganda Open NOTEBOOK
Hosts: Lake Victoria Serena Resort & Spa, Kigo
Dates: Aug. 26 - September 14
Flagship Sponsor: Castle Lite
Sponsors: Absa, UTB, Pepsi, Minet, Isuzu, Lake Victoria Serena, Britam, NTV, Timecorp, Liquid Telecom
Tournament Director: John Katto
FORMER OPEN WINNERS
2018: 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)