Deo Akope a very happy man. And yet, he is not getting ahead of himself.
The Uganda Professional Golfers Association (UPGA) captain is hoping his recent win on the regional Safari Tour Golf Series can spur his counterparts in the road to next year’s PGA European Tour events.
Akope on Wednesday held off competition from experienced Kenyans Dismas Indiza and Simon Ngige to win the biggest share of the $18100 (Shs 64.4m) kitty at the Nyali Golf & Country Club in Kenya.
“It’s important for my personal profile but also, important for UPGA,” Akope said moments after finishing with an aggregate two-under 282 after four rounds.
This marked the first win by a Ugandan since the start of the Safari Tour Series, which comprises players from Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Rwanda, Nigeria and South Africa.
“It is do-able,” Akope went on, rallying on his colleagues. “And I hope other pros will follow and emulate that. It has also given me a boost going to the Uganda Open due in a month’s time,” noted the 43-year-old before collecting his accolade from Nyali club captain Zafir Dean.
The two-time Uganda Professionals Open champion Akope fired two classic birdies on the last two holes to finish with a final round of level par-71, thereby holding off Ngige and Indiza to win by two strokes.
“I was leading Ngige by two shots teeing off No.16 and then I double-bogeyed it but I kept my cool and immediately went birdied No.17 and he also birdied. So we were tied going 18 and I birdied and he bogeyed,” Akope narrated the final frantic moments.
Tying 19th at Sigona, Akope missed the cut at Vetlab but he controversially missed being entered for the Naivasha leg of the Safari Tour.
After scoring 50 points at Nyali, he is ranked fourth best non-Kenyan on the Safari Tour charts with a collated 70.9 points in the run-up to the European Tour events; Kenya Open and Savannah Classic events due next March.
Akope’s red-hot clubs will be lined-up in Diani for the Leisure Lodge Beach and Golf Resort leg beginning tomorrow.
His counterparts Ronald Rugumayo who tied 10t h with an aggregate eight-over 292, Abbey Bagalana, Brian Toolit, Phillip Kasozi and Willy Deus Kitata who didn’t make the cut in Nyali, now all have a new chance in Diani at Kenya’s South Coast.
2021-2022 SAFARI TOUR SERIES
NYALI LEG - FINAL LEADERBOARD
1 Deo Akope (UGA) 75 68 68 71 282 -2
T2 Dismas Indiza (KEN) 72 70 71 71 284 0
T2 Simon Ngige (KEN) 70 71 70 73 284 0
T4 Erick Ooko (KEN) 70 75 72 69 286 2
T4 Mutahi Kibugu (KEN)71 74 69 72 286 2
T4 David Wakhu (KEN) 73 72 68 73 286 2