South African Irvin Thato Mazibuko started with a fiery four-under 68 to lead the 14th Castle Lite Uganda Professionals Golf Open by two shots at Kigo yesterday.
With little known about him, Mazibuko was the talk for the better half of the day as his name stayed atop of the leaderboard after he shot four birdies after in the first six holes.
“It was good,” Mazibuko said after his round at the Lake Victoria Serena Golf Resort & Spa. “The pins were tough but my game plan was okay.”
The 40-year-old had a dreadful debut Open in Entebbe last year when he broke down with illness after Day One, only to miss the cut by a shot with a halfway score of +7.
And how times change! “I expected it because I had very good preparation,” stated the Soweto Country Club player. “My game has turned around over the past four months.”
He is now hoping to triumph on his second visit to the Pearl of Africa after carding six birdies on the par-4 No.1, par-5 No.2, par-3 No.4, par-4 No.6, par-5 No.8 and par-5 No.17.
“The good start set up my round. The course is beautiful, like Serengeti in Johannesburg though, with more water,” he said. Mazibuko however picked up bogeys on the par-3 No.7 and par-4 No.10
“When I dropped on No.10, I slowed down a bit. It was easy for me to approach with a full shot. I have to keep the same game plan tomorrow (today),” added the man who turned pro in 2000.
In the race for the biggest chunk of the $50,000 (Shs184m) purse, Mazibuko is followed Kenyan Justus Madoya and Zimbabwean Tongoona Charamba who carded two-under 70 apiece.
Another Zimbabwean Robson Chinhoi is fourth at one-under 71 while 2015 champion Zambia Muthiya Madalitso is fifth after playing level.
Uganda’s best players are amateur Rodell Gaita, Abraham Ainamani and 2013 winner Vincent Byamukama, who are all tied with record five-time winner and defending champion Kenyan Dismas Indiza at one-over 73.
“I think I was just unlucky, I had so many birdie putts but just couldn’t make them,” said Ainamani. “I hope for a better round.”
“It was tough,” Indiza said before returning to the practice green in the evening. “The pin placements were difficult but tomorrow (today), we are going to see ‘who is who!’,” he warned.
Uganda’s favourite Phillip Kasozi is tied with Opio twins Silver and Onito after stroking three-over 75, seven shots off the lead.
“Today was the practice round,” remarked Kasozi, “I start tomorrow. I am like a diesel engine, hoping to come from behind,” added the man who tied eighth in 2016, 12th in 2017 and 28th last year.
Meanwhile, Kenyan Edwin Mudanyi carded a hole-in-one on the par-3 Hole No.15 using a 7-iron in company of Kenyan Jeff Kubwa and Botswanan Walter Seokemong.
“It is one of those good shots during a round,” Mudanyi said of his fifth career hole-in-one feat.
Being a Safari Tour event, the field has already been cut as those who scored 86 (+14) and more were trimmed off. The cut is projected at +5 later today.
UGANDA PROFESSIONALS OPEN
DAY ONE LEADERBOARD
1 Thato Mazibuko (RSA) 68
T2 Justus Madoya (KEN) 70
T2 Tongoona Charamba (ZIM) 70
4 Robson Chinhoi (ZIM) 71
5 Muthiya Madalisto (ZAM) 72
T6 Visitor Mapwanya (ZIM) 73
T6 Dayne Moore (ZAM) 73
T6 Vimal Shah (KEN) 73
T6 Gaita Rodell (UGA) 73*
T6 Samba Niang (SEN) 73
T6 Dismas Indiza (KEN) 73
T6 Njuguna Ngugi (KEN) 73
T6 David Odhiambo (KEN) 73
T6 Abraham Ainamani (UGA) 73
T6 Andrew Odoh (NIG) 73
T6 Vincent Byamukama (UGA) 73