The word ‘spent force’ has been thrown around a lot for sportsmen that cross the 30-year-old mark. But many athletes have rendered it as redundant as it sounds.
Uganda Professional Golfers Association (UPGA) captain Deo Akope takes no exception. The 42-year-old had faded off the scene for the last six years with no silverware to show.
Akope wasn’t even among the pundits’ picks in the build up to the 15th edition of the Tusker Malt Lager Uganda Professionals Open .
But playing at the Uganda Golf Club (UGC) par-72 Kitante course, a place where he also works under Sadi Atibu as the Assistant Club Pro, Akope made his presence count with solid performances over the four days.
Second is good enough
He was a joint leader with towering Denis Anguyo, who faded into 32nd at the end, after shooting 71 on Day One.
And when eventual winner Robson Chinhoi took the lead with a ‘mad’ round of 66 on Day 2, Akope made the second place his own home with competitive rounds of 74, 70 and 69 to end on five-under 283.
His gang of fans gulped several pints of frothy to crazily celebrate the return of their man, who won three back-to-back Amateur Open titles and two Pro Open diadems in 2006 and 2014 whereas his critics silently disappeared in the night’s darkness like all bad omens do.
“I am a good golfer and I still have a lot of golf in me,” said Akope while scoffing at those that regarded him as a spent force.
“I just need to practice more often. My job is demanding as I work six days a week. But the earlier days of the Covid-19 lockdown helped me recover my love for the game.
“When the SOPs were relaxed, I played a lot of recreation golf at my childhood club in Entebbe.
“My game became better and my scores were good. I thank Atibu who gave me time off and allowed me to play every time I wanted in the last two weeks to the Open. My No.1 supporter Dr Robert Lim Lim and wife Sylvia Akope have also always backed me up all the way.”
Feared combo plot
Akope says he feels very fresh, his game is destined for better days, urged the sponsors to return and saluted fellow Ugandan pro Phillip Kasozi who finished fifth but was second on Day 3.
“I am working on my swing. Right now its at 80 per cent. I need to add another 10 per cent and I will be back to my best. MTN used to be my sponsors for five years (2010-15) and things were good back then. I won so much but without them sponsorship has been tough and it affected my game.
“I urge the corporate sponsors especially the telecoms and banks to return support the game and the individual pros,” added the former national coach.
“Kasozi is a good player with a tough mental attitude. He has done well on the regional circuit and has been the country’s lone ranger for most of the time. Now I am back and I am going to travel with him everywhere and ensure that we form a feared partnership. We will be unbeatable and fly Uganda’s flag high.”
After the Uganda Open, the next stop for the Safari Tour Series will be at The Great Rift Valley Club, Naivasha in January.