Martha Babirye underlined her title credentials by carding a round of four-over par 76 to assume a six-shot lead on Day One of the 69th Castle Lite Uganda Ladies Golf Open at the Lake Victoria Serena Golf Resort & Spa yesterday.
Battling pain her right knee, Babirye wasn’t perfect but she returned from the par-72 course in Kigo with a good advantage as no one else managed a score below 80 gross.
“Wow!” Babirye reacted on hearing her healthy lead at the 54-hole strokeplay competition. “It was okay but the greens are hard. The course is playable,” said the handicap four player. Teeing-off at Hole No.10, Babirye was stunned as she opened up her account with a double-bogey. “I am used to starting at Hole No.1. On No.10, my body was not yet used,” she remarked.
The 23-year-old would then pick another quintet of bogeys on Holes No.3, 4, 6, 7 and 16. But a birdie on par-5 Hole No.17 and a priceless eagle on par-5 Hole No.2 brought back normalcy to her round. Her round of 76 was similar to her opening score at the Open last year in Entebbe when she took a one-shot lead over Tanzanian Ayne Magombe as well as the Ugandan pair of Irene Nakalembe and Gloria Mbaguta, only for her to finish second after Day Three. The twin, who has spent the last 10 months at Kigo, is however not carried away this time. “I don’t count the first day because there are still 36 holes to play.”
She is followed, again, by Nakalembe and three-time winner Tanzanian Angel Eaton who returned similar aggregates of 10-over 82. “The greens were hard,” said Nakalembe who did not manage a single birdie. “Pins were also hidden. So if you were not there on time, you were already in trouble. I just need to get my game better,” added the 2016 and 2017 Open runner-up.
Defending champion Tanzanian Neema Olomi is eighth after shooting 87. “My tee and second shots are all good but it is tough around the greens. I love the course though,” devoid of pressure, the Arusha Gymkhana Club player noted. Babirye hopes to maintain the momentum today. “My knee is still hurting but I will keep taking good breaks and try be okay.
I am going to play my normal game until the last day so I will try save the shots in the next two days,” she added.
FORMER OPEN WINNERS
TOP 10 - DAY ONE LEADERBOARD
1. Martha Babirye (UGA) 76
T2. Irene Nakalembe (UGA) 82
T2. Angel Eaton (TAZ) 82
4. Hawa Wanyeche (TAZ) 83
5. Louise Gitau (KEN) 84
T6. Sheila Kesiime (UGA) 86
T6. Evah Magala (UGA) 86
8. Neema Olomi (TAZ) 87
T8. Vicky Elias (TAZ) 88
T8. Jane Koech (KEN) 88