Kenyan Simon Njogu set the pace at the 78th Castle Lite Uganda Amateur Open by firing a round of three-under 69 on Day One at the Lake Victoria Serena Golf Resort & Spa course in Kigo yesterday.
The 31-year-old thrived in the area that troubled many most - putting on the greens - to assume a two-shot lead at the heavily water-guarded par-72 course.
“The round was very good,” said Njogu upon returning from the course at about 5:40pm.
“I told myself not fear the wind or water, but to drive and go for it,” he said.
“I was very keen on the greens. Most of the putts were not birdies but they were going in,” the Great Rift Valley Club player from Nairobi went on. “While at the putting range, I realised I should pitch instead of chipping while near the green.”
Njogu, who leads Kenya’s quest for the first title at this Open since 2007, carded birdies on Holes No.2, 8, 9, 11 and 13. He needed to save bogeys on Hole No.7 and also from the water on No.18.
The last Kenyan to win the Uganda Open is Nicholas Rokoine, 15 years ago, but Njogu, playing this championship for the first time, wants to break that hoodoo.
“I can win if I play pressure-free golf tomorrow (today). I just need to go for par and rather not be aggressive,” he added.
He is followed by another Kenyan Peter Rimui who also fired five birdies in a round of 71.
“The round was good but the greens were a bit tough. The course is in good condition. I hope I can play under again,” said the Thika Club player.
Uganda’s leading players are Rodell Gaita, John Basabose and Ashiraf Bagalana, who are tied on 75 with three more Kenyans and Tanzanian Joseph Victor, all in joint-fifth place.
Meanwhile defending champion Ugandan Ronald Otile is much further behind tied in 42nd position with four others after carding 10-over 82.
“It was tough. More so on the back nine greens,” said Otile, the 2015, 2016 and 2018 winner. “I three-putted on No.10, No.12 and No.15,” the US-based player noted. He will be chasing 13 strokes today.
“Tomorrow, I am going for six under. I will do whatever it takes, I swear. I want to be in the pressure group, at least on the final day,” added Otile.
Bookmakers’ favourite Joseph Cwinyaai is tied 12th with Denis Asaba and three others on four-over 76.
“The first six holes were a problem but I will come better than that,” the handicap two player stated.
DAY ONE LEADERBOARD
1. Simon Njogu (KEN) 69
2. Peter Rimui (KEN) 71
3. Samuel Njoroge (KEN) 73
4. Isaac Makokha (KEN) 74
T5. Daniel Nduva (KEN) 75
T5. Rodell Gaita (UGA) 75
T5. John Basabose (UGA) 75
T5. Ashiraf Bagalana (UGA) 75
T5. Zubairi Khan (KEN) 75
T5. Joseph Victor (TAZ) 75
T5. William Odera (KEN) 75
2019 Uganda Open NOTEBOOK
Lake Victoria Serena Resort & Spa, Kigo
Dates: Aug. 26 - September 14
Flagship Sponsor: Castle Lite
Absa, UTB, Pepsi, Minet, Isuzu, Lake Victoria Serena, Britam, NTV, Timecorp, Liquid Telecom
Tournament Director: John Katto
2019 Ladies Winner: Martha Babirye