KAMPALA- A glance at the cast of winners’ list of the Uganda Professionals’ Golf Open paints a picture of the foreign legion’s stranglehold.
The local players have only tasted victory thrice out of 13 editions, accounting for only 23 percent success rate for any Ugandan at the country’s most prestigious professional golfing showpiece.
Amateur Ronald Otile is last Ugandan to win and his 2015 triumph is rendered invalid as those honours went to Zambian Muthiya Madalitso. So who will the hosts send to alter the script when the 14th Castle Lite Uganda Professionals Golf Open tees-off at the Lake Victoria Serena Resort & Spa this morning?
From the pool, Phillip Kasozi will inevitably carry the weight of expectation accompanied with bouts of well-weighted pressure in the race for the $50,000 (Shs184m) kitty at the par-72 water-laden course.
“I have a chance, big one,” ever calm and composed, Kasozi told Daily Monitor in an interview earlier this week. “I have had issues here and there but if am settled, I will fight to the last day.”
Kasozi, a champion of the Uganda Amateur Golf Open seven years ago, leads the locals after becoming the first Ugandan to feature on the PGA European Tour when he played at the Kenya Open at Karen Country Club in Nairobi but missed the cut by two strokes in March.
The 35-year-old could have fared better at the ensuing Zambia Open, Zanaco Masters and the KCB Karen Masters tourneys.
“From Kenya Open, I have been struggling. Finances, as you know but at Kigo, the fight is on. Hopefully, the winning song will come in my head this week,” added Kasozi.
And he knows the Kigo course well since he is the last professional to win a tournament there - the Serena Open - last October.
“I no longer see the water. I used to see it when it was new,” Kasozi described the course with confidence.
Kasozi has come close to this Open title recently, making the cut each year before tying in eighth with record Open champion Kenyan Dismas Indiza in 2016, tying 12th in 2017, and tying again in 28th last year in Entebbe.
For Uganda to up its ante, two-time champion Deo Akope must match the glorification and belief he always receives from the gallery, Herman Mutawe is a silent but consistent fellow while Kigo course pro Fred Wanzala is ranked among the country’s best ‘golf businessmen’.
Towering Denis Anguyo and Happy Robert were Uganda’s best last year tied in fourth and each must dust their clubs whereas 2013 champion Vincent Byamukama and rookie pro Herman Mutebi have been camping in Kigo for a couple of months.
But the foreign legion has produced the past four champions; Madalisto, South African Joshua Seale (2016), Portuguese Stephen Ferreira (2017) and five-time defending champion Indiza and all face-off here like last year.
“My target is to first make the cut,” said Indiza, also the 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2012 winner. “After two or three days then, I will know if I can win or not. But I hope to retain the crown,” added the man who normally drives his car from Kisumu to Kampala.
His big threat is Seale who missed the cut last year. He however carded six-under 66 in a practice round on Monday. “Feeling solid,” Seale stated, “Just trying to dial yardages. I don’t enter (a tournament) if I don’t think I can win so the plan is always to win,” he added.
Ferreira is a little calmer. “I hope to win it again this year,” he noted. Potent Zambian Dayne Moore, a bunch of Kenyans and Indian Rawal Maharshi all will divide the gallery’s attention.
FORMER PRO OPEN WINNERS
TOP 10 - DAY ONE LEADERBOARD
2018: Dismas Indiza (KEN)
2017: Stephen Ferreira (POR)
2016: Joshua Seale (RSA)
2015: Muthiya Madalitso (ZAM)
2014: Deo Akope (UGA)
2013: Vincent Byamukama (UGA)
2012: Dismas Indiza (KEN)
2011: Dismas Indiza (KEN)
2010: Jean Baptiste Hakizimana (RWA)
2009: Richard Ainley (KEN)
2008: Dismas Indiza (KEN)
2007: Dismas Indiza (KEN)
2006: Deo Akope (UGA)