Playing for the first time in Uganda’s most prestigious golfing event - The Castle Lite Uganda Amateur Golf Open - Kenyan Daniel Nduva literally ‘sneaked through the back door’ to win the 78th edition at the magnificent Lake Victoria Serena Golf Resort and Spa on Saturday.
Nduva wasn’t even in the pressure group. He had the same tally with Uganda’s boy wonder - the three-time Uganda Open champion - Ronald Otile on level par 216 after 54 holes of strokeplay on Day Three Friday.
And with Otile coming off a jaw-dropping round during which he reset the course record from 68 on Day Two Thursday to 66 on Friday, the gallery came out in full voice expecting their favourite son-of-the-soil to once again bask in the glory. But while one cannot say that Otile choked, the US-based prodigy collapsed under the weight of immeasurable pressure from the two Kenyans - Simon Njogu Muthoni and Samuel Chege Njoroge - who played alongside him in the main pressure group and forthwith displayed enviable teamwork.
Round of adversity
Otile’s round was a fight against adversity. His sweet swing deserted him and his game was case of either finding one hazard after another or fighting to save par at literally every undulating green. The 22-year-old’s troubles were heightened at the 13th green where he cut forlorn figure after hitting out of bounds losing no less than two penalty shots.
“I was just unlucky.” said a defiant-in-defeat Otile while carrying one of his young Ugandan fans just a glance away from Serena’s Marina Docking Area where Uganda Golf Union (UGU) president Innocent Kihika had just handed over the ‘Holy Grail’ to 2019 champion Nduva.
“I did my best but the Kenyans ganged up against me. The course played tough and yes there was some pressure. But it is all good. I will have another go at the title next year.”
For Nduva it was all merry-making after a fairytale run that saw him finish with an overall aggregate of two-under 286 after four consistent rounds of 75, 70, 71 and 70 to make certain of a historic Kenyan 1, 2, 3 finish.
“I am happy to have won the overall championship. It has taken belief and determination,” mellowed the handicap +2 Nduva, who is a member of the Nyali Golf & Country Club in Mombasa.
“I knew I had a chance when I played two-under-par 70 on Day Two. And not being in the pressure group helped a lot because I played a relaxed round. I dedicate this triumph to my mum who would have been proud of me if she were here.
“I would also like to thank my fellow Kenyans for coming down here with me. I thank Serena for the hospitality and the sponsors, too. We have had so much fun. It has been amazing. For the past two editions, it has been Uganda and we (Kenyans) have been coming close. Mr president (Kihika), we are back and we will be back next year to defend it,” said the 23-year-old obviously relating to Otile and Ronald Rugumayo’s previous wins and Team Uganda’s recent dominant show at this year’s Victoria Cup and Africa Region IV Golf Championship in Burundi.
Team Uganda captain Joseph Cwinyaai was the nation’s best place with a fourth-place finish at 293 gross - two strokes better than joint fifth finishers Denis Asaba and Otile, who carded 72 and 79 in the closing round to end with similar aggregates of seven-over 295.
The 19th hole was a well-lit affair with Uganda’s fast rising musician Ykee Benda entertaining the guests with his club bangers that got the everyone dancing.
Final Leaderboard - Top 10
Daniel Nduva (Kenya) 75, 70, 71, 70 286
2. Simon Njogu Muthoni (Kenya) 69, 75, 71, 72 287
3. Samuel Chege Njoroge (Kenya) 73, 72, 68, 75 288
4. Joseph Cwinyaai (Uganda) 76, 73, 72, 72 293
T5. Denis Asaba (Uganda) 76, 75, 72, 72 295
T5. Ronald Otile (Uganda) 82, 68, 66, 79 295
7. Khan Zubair (Kenya) 75, 74, 75, 74 298
8. Peter Rimui Mwangi (Kenya) 71, 76, 76, 78 301
9. Michael Kisia (Kenya) 76, 75, 73, 79 303
T10. Adel Balala (Kenya) 79,76, 77, 72 304
T10. David Spencer (USA) 76, 76, 75, 77 304