Alunga spirit lifted after Malindi Open triumph

Michael Alunga hoists his trophy. COURTESY PHOTO

What you need to know:

The Fort Portal-bred player cracked the right codes to beat the 57-man field over two rounds and win the Malindi Open championship with the best aggregate score of six-over 146 gross.

Michael Alunga is not a familiar face to many, especially outside the confines of Uganda’s golf.

But as his seniors like Joseph Cwinyaai, Denis Asaba, Daniel Baguma and Ronald Otile continue to naturally pave the way, the light will soon shine brighter on him.

He tends to come off a shy lad but his golf isn’t. And the gallery and field which graced the Malindi Golf & Country Club last weekend can attest to that.

The Fort Portal-bred player cracked the right codes to beat the 57-man field over two rounds and win the Malindi Open championship with the best aggregate score of six-over 146 gross.

The feat at the par-70 course was quite historic. “It was very good…,” Alunga remarked, “… being the first amateur player for so long to win in Kenya.”

Checking the books, a victory by a Ugandan amateur has been hard to come by since Deo Akope in 2006. “One day he (Alunga) asked me when the last Ugandan amateur won in Kenya and I told him I last won in 2006,” Akope said.

“He told me that’s very long and promised me he would win soon. He’s exactly done what I used to do by attacking the Kenyans and beating them alone,” the two-time Uganda Professional Open champion Akope added.

The win came after successive first runner-up finishes in more than five events on the Kenya Amateur Golf Championship circuit. “I really needed to win because I have been struggling with second position every time,” Alunga stated.

He had sniffed glory only to register second-place finishes at the Winston Churchill at Thika, Coronation & Bender in Nakuru, Golf Park Open in Nairobi, Tranzoia Open in Kitale and the Mt Kenya Open in Nyeri.

At Malindi, he was tied with Sammy Mulama in second with a Day One score of 75 comprising four birdies, seven bogeys and a double-bogey on par-4 Hole No.15 while chasing leader Isaac Makokha.

Alunga however improved his scores with a better round of one-over 71 on Day Two which included five birdies on Holes par-3 No.7, par-5 No.12, par-5 No.14, par-5 No.15 and par-4 No.17.

The double-bogey on par-4 Hole No.6 and four bogeys on Holes par-4 No.1, par-3s No.2, No.13 and No.16 did not deter his surge to the top of the leaderboard.

By spending more time in Kenya particularly at Golf Park in Nairobi, Alunga’s game has changed amid several challenges. “75 percent improvement on my mental strength and game management,” said the lad who first held clubs 11 years ago at Tooro Club.

“It has been so hard staying over here, but it’s just if you need something you have to hustle and sacrifice for it,” he said. Alunga lauds Francis Otim, Alexander Matsiko, Daniel Kanga and Dr James Eyul for the vital financial support.

“If I had a company which was sponsoring me, I would not be stressed. I would be doing everything at a time. Sometimes, I can’t go on the course since I don’t have money.

As you know Kenya is a bit tight, I have to look for people I can train so that I get something for a day.” He however has a big goal for the year.

“My target is to finish top three in the Kenya Amateur rankings and if I get a chance to win the Uganda Open, then I will have to go for it,” he added.

Alunga still has more than 10 tournaments to play on the KAGC circuit before the year ends.


Full Name: Michael Alunga

Date of birth: September 19

Handicap: +1

Club: Uganda Golf Club

National team debut: 2019

Major career wins: 2018 Tororo Open, 2022 Palm Valley Open, 2022 Kenya Chairman’s Cup Invitational, 2022 Malindi Open

Role model: Deo Akope

International icon: Tiger Woods

Favourite golf course: Tooro

Apparel: Titleist