Kampala. The customary men’s national golf team qualifiers that kick off the year have earned more attention than before.
And Uganda Golf Union (UGU) seems not to let the vibe valve on them any loose. Yesterday, UGU did something rare: unveiling the 22 players from which they will pick units for subsequent continental engagements over the year.
“These are the baby steps (to changing the face of the national team),” UGU president Innocent Kihika stated at the press conference held at Uganda Golf Club (UGC) in Kitante.
The qualifiers witnessed the biggest attendance ever. “We had 121 entries via phone and an 89-man field turned up at Entebbe,” said Kihika.
Of those, 43 made the cut at 166 gross after the first two rounds at the par-71 Entebbe course on Monday and then headed to par-72 Kitante course for two more rounds where Joseph Chinywaai beat the field to win with a level-par total aggregate score of 288 gross on Tuesday.
“I am still angry about missing the Uganda Amateur Open title last year,” said Cwinyaai, who has consistently made the Open top 10 places since 2016.
“This qualifier is an example of what I can do this year,” the scratch player remarked. “But I have to work harder. My lowest score should be 75 and below at any tournament this year,” added the Tooro club player.
He will be buoyed by the sponsorship he got from Robert Okong of the RKO Foundation mainly for upcountry and beyond-the-border events.
Cwinyaai shares that privilege with Joel Basalaine who beat him, Ibrahim Bagalana and Gaita Rodell to the national captain vote.
The latter pair are among the 15 debutants composed in the new-look team side following the rare exodus of an avalanche of talent to the professional ranks in September last year.
The team as well has seven juniors with five from Mehta Club and a surprise addition Hussein Alemega from Arua’s West Nile Club and a duo from Namulonge.
“Beginning with this qualifier, we are also introducing an Order of Merit for all club events across the country where we shall be ranking our players respectively,” UGU secretary Paul Baite announced. Cwinyaai’s desires among others feeds directly into Uganda’s plan to compete favourably at four major competitions this year: the All-Africa Junior Golf Championships in Botswana come March which will be followed by the Victoria Cup against Kenya at UGC in June.
From there, Uganda will attempt to defend their title at the Africa Region IV tournament in Burundi in August before the Africa Amateur Golf Championship in Mauritius in October.
“We will participate in all events with full teams,” UGC vice-president John Katto stated.
The intent is real. “We have great faith in them,” noted Kihika, “We want to put up a good show at the All-Africa Juniors and another against Kenya in the Victoria Cup when they come here.”
Getting to their best
Meanwhile, Uganda has never won the Victoria Cup - the East Africa Ryder Cup - surrendering to Kenya at all three editions. And the East African nation honestly slumped on the continent midway 2017 following turbulent waves around the country’s most successful coach Amos Kamya.
Now his predecessor Stephen Kasaija, with fewer words, knows what to do for the new guns. “There is a stronger vibe around this year’s qualifiers,” Kasaija first concurred.
Joel Basalaine (Captain), Joseph Cwinyaai (Asst. Captain), Denis Asaba, Micheal Alunga, Gaita Rodell, Emmanuel Jakisa, Ashraf Bagalana, Ibrahim Aliga, Daniel Baguma, Godfrey Nsubuga, Noah, Waibi, Grace Kasango, Rogers Eyoyo, Hussein Alemega, James Koto, Emmanuel Moko, Ibrahim Bagalana, Bulhan Matovu, Reagan Akena, Jonathan Musinguzi, Joseph Kanonera, Innocent Okecha.
Team Manager: Moses Masiko
Coach: Stephen Kasaija