Akope harbours Magical Kenya Open cut dreams

Slice of History. Akope was the first Ugandan golf professional to win a Safari Tour Series event at Nyali Country Club last October and is now seeking to become the first Ugandan to make a cut at the Magical Kenya Open in 16 years.   Photo/Eddie Chicco

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Proper Injection. Uganda Professional Golfers Association captain Deo Akope received a massive boost of $ 9,679.46 (at least Shs34m) from ATX Technology to enable him participate in the remaining three Safari Tour Series events in Nairobi as well as the Magical Kenya Open.

There is no bigger name in Ugandan golf than Deo Akope. The captain of the Uganda Professional Golfers Association (UPGA) is actually the most decorated golfer in the Pearl of Africa.
From his amateur days, Deo Akope has done it all. Winning three successive Uganda Open titles (2000-2002) as an amateur and doubling the act as a professional in 2006 and 2014, playing at the Golf World Cup alongside Godfrey Mande between 2006-2008 and spurring the national amateur team to victories as player and coach, Akope has lived a life of thrills on the golf course.

But since turning professional in 2006, one thing still eludes the man who still harbours dreams of either lifting the Claret Jug or donning the Green Jacket one day.
Qualifying for the Magical Kenya Open has been an oatmeal for the 40-year-old, who has also at times received wild-card entries but the ignominy of failing to make the cut is very fresh.

Game in good place
“My game is way up there at the moment,” started Akope at a press-briefing on Wednesday during which ATX Technology’s Managing Director Patrice Aliakai and Sales & Marketing Manager Ritah Kuteesa handed over to him a $9,679.46 (about Shs34m) sponsorship package to facilitate his air-travel, accommodation, green fees, caddie fees, feeding and clothing for the last three events of the Safari Tour Series and Magical Kenya Open thereafter.

“I already have one foot in the Open and the other will surely join in after these three events. But I am itching for a slice of history. No Ugandan has ever made the cut at the Open and I feel this time we can write that piece of history by reaching the European Tour event’s money bracket finally. Having ATX Technology on board gives me confidence to go out there and express myself in a fearless manner.”

The Safari Tour is traditionally used as a yardstick to ascertain regional pro slots for the Kenya Open.
This weekend of January 22-26 will see the Safari Tour stop at Limuru Country Club, followed by the Karen round on February 5-9 and Muthaiga on February 12-16.
The Muthaiga round of Safari Tour will hand the regional pros and amateurs an opportunity to feel the Kenya Open venue as this will be the first time the club will be running a European Tour event.

History maker on prowl
Last October,  Akope became the first Ugandan golfer to win a Safari Tour event during the fourth round of this season at Nyali Golf Club with a two-stroke victory.
Currently, he sits at 12th place on the overall standings and is third among the non-Kenyan nationals behind Zimbabwe’s Robson Chinhoi and Malawi’s Paul Chidale.
The top 12 Kenyans and top three internationals (non-Kenyans) on the Safari Tour Series 54-man log will make the grade for the coveted Kenya Open that has a history dating back to 1967.

“We share the same story like Akope. From humble beginnings to becoming a leader. He started playing golf with sticks and like us we have started in a two-roomed office. Now we do engineering work for the biggest telecoms and so is Akope a role model for many.  We share values of hard work, passion, humility and striving for excellence,” said ATX Technology MD Aliakai at the presser held at Uganda Golf Club (UGC) Kitante.

ATX Technology are also set to facilitate the Deo Akope Golf Foundation but for now focus is on the cash rich €1m (about Shs4b) Magical Kenya Open’s qualification where the Ugandan poster boy will have fast-rising Ronald Rugumayo, Phillip Kasozi, Abbey Bagalana, Abraham Ainamai and Vincent ‘Araali’ Byamukama flying the Uganda flag, too.
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