Eight-year drought awaits locals at Uganda Open

Akope hopes to lead Uganda's charge. PHOTO/EDDIE CHICCO 

What you need to know:

The sample space could be bigger. US-based Willy Deus Kitata has flown with his partner to act as a caddy, as did 2016 champion South African Joshua Seale, now playing for Uganda, who has had company with his dad Bert Seale in Kigo since Thursday.


The past fortnight has put smiles on Martha Babirye, John Muchiri, Edrae Kagombe and Andrew Ssekibejja's faces in the unpaid events of the five-in-one Tusker Malt Uganda Golf Open.

The country’s flagship showpiece will wrap up this week when a star field of about 70 players vie for the biggest share of the Shs100m kitty at the 17th Uganda Professionals Golf Open which tees-off at the Lake Victoria Serena Resort & Spa in Kigo on Wednesday.

The competition over 72 holes has produced a foreigner as the winner over the past seven editions, with Deo Akope the last Ugandan to savour glory at this championship in 2014.

Granted, the circumstances around playing in Kigo haven’t been simple as the entry fees and caddy charges are relatively high, compared to other courses in the country.

Investment 

Yet also, Kigo management under Theodore van Rooyen has worked around the clock to elevate the course from water it had a month ago, the maintenance investment rated at over $1m dollars (Shs3.7b) according Uganda Golf Union president Moses Matsiko.

Furthermore, events on the Uganda Professionals Golfers Association (UPGA) local calendar have been scanty this year and the recent Presidential election next door in Kenya meant the annual Safari Tour Series largely came to a halt.

Regardless, the talent from UPGA wants to end that hoodoo and claim the crown for the first time in eight years.

“Definitely they (foreign legion) are tournament ready more than us who have just been without competitions,” admitted Akope, the former UPGA captain.

“It does worry many but that doesn’t mean we can’t compete with them. I believe the locals will put on a good show,” he said.

Fifth place 

The two-time Pros Open champion Akope has played two tournaments, winning the Captain’s Bell and taking fifth place at the Kitante Ladies Open all at Uganda Golf Club (UGC) so he wants to keep it really simple.

“The plan is just to keep the ball in play and try to make as many birdies as I can,” Akope added.

Perhaps, Uganda’s best placed bet is Ronald Rugumayo. He was the country’s best placed finisher in fourth place at the Open in Entebbe last year.

“My career has changed a lot. Since then, I have had three wins and, playing on the Sunshine Tour and DP Tour never left me the same, the grind continues,” said Rugumayo.

Rugumayo concurs with Akope that performance is down to individual preparation. “All I can say the game has improved a lot, everyone puts in time and money, I strongly believe the locals are going to put up a great performance in this year’s Open.” 

An Amateur Open champion in 2017, Rugumayo heads to Kigo on the back of wins at the Rwenzori Open in Fort Portal and Kitante Ladies Open, second place at the Entebbe Singleton Match-play Challenge, fourth place finishes at the Absa Open and Lira Open events.

Missing cut 

Rugumayo also earned vital experience despite missing the cut by three shots at the Kenya Open and at the Zimbabwe Open.

“Great preparation builds the layers of confidence that allow you to believe, rather than hope that you will play well. I feel good, the mood is okay,” added the man from Fort Portal.

It is also difficult to write off Phillip Kasozi, a man who has not missed the cut at this Open since turning pro in 2015.

Kasozi was among the 12 locals who made the cut last year and his hibernation has coincided with changes in his style of play as well as a competitions’ lull.

“I want to win, it’s been long. It’s time to put my amends to test,” said Kasozi, who finished fifth in 2019. He last played competitive golf in February at Muthaiga before second place at the UGC Captain’s Bell.

Feeling rusty? “I cannot tell,” he replied, “Though I feel my amendments in my swing are okay so rusty or not rusty will try to use experience to be on top. On putting, I got some advice, it’s improved.”

Kasozi on Tuesday opted to skip the practice round. “One thing I realized, it’s never the golf course, just swing right and you will play anywhere. I saw that in the Kenya Open,” he added.

Partners

The sample space could be bigger. US-based Willy Deus Kitata has flown with his partner to act as a caddy, as did 2016 champion South African Joshua Seale, now playing for Uganda, who has had company with his dad Bert Seale in Kigo since Thursday.

UPGA captain Denis Anguyo often offers reminders of his prowess, 2013 winner Vincent Byamukama and former Kigo course pro Fred Wanzala are relishing the opportunity too.

It will also be the first two female pros to pursue this purse with Irene Nakalembe and Flavia Namakula turning on their lights.

Eyes on the foreign cast will be on Kenyan Jastas Madoya whose low-key arrival in Kigo can’t be underestimated as he bids to retain his title.

Other former winners in the fray include record five-time Open champion Dismas Indiza as well as 2020 winner Zimbabwean Robson Chinhoi, who recently won the Kinshasa Open and Lubumbashi Open titles in DR Congo.

2022 UGANDA GOLF OPEN

TOURNAMENT NOTEBOOK

Dates: October 6-29

Venue: Lake Victoria Serena Golf Resort & Spa

Location: Kigo, Wakiso

Size: Par-72

Expected field: 400 players

Pros’ kitty: Shs100m

Platinum Sponsor: UBL (Shs600m)

Gold Sponsor: Absa (Shs200m)

Bronze Sponsors: R&A, International Golf Federation, Africa Golf Confederation, Serena Hotel Kigo, Case Medical Services, Pepsi

TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE

Oct 6-8: 72nd Ladies Open

Oct 14-15: Seniors Open

Oct 19-22: 81st Amateur Open

Oct 25: Pro-Am

Oct 26-29: 17th Professional Open

16TH TUSKER MALT UGANDA PROFESSIONALS’ OPEN

FINAL LEADERBOARD

1 Jastas Madoya (KEN)                      65 68 66 72 271 -13

2 Dismas Indiza (KEN)                      69 69 66 72 276 -8

3 Robson Chinhoi (ZIM)                    68 64 73 73 278 -6

4 Ronald Rugumayo (UGA)            72 68 66 73 279 -5

5 Visitor Mapwanya (ZIM)                67 69 70 75 281 -3

6 Sydney Wemba (ZIM)                     74 68 72 69 283 -1

7 Samuel Chege (KEN)                      71 74 74 65 284 0

8 Erick Ooko (KEN)                           72 73 70 71 286 2

T9 Paul Chidale (MAW)                     72 71 72 72 287 3

T9 Silver Opio (UGA)                       70 71 74 72 287 3

T9 Deo Akope (UGA)                       72 68 71 76 287 3

12 Joshua Seale (UGA)                        74 67 71 76 288 4

T15 Vincent Byamukama (UG)       77 66 71 76 290 6

T15 Willy Deus Kitata (UGA)         74 69 70 77 290 6

T19 Abraham Ainamani (UGA)     69 74 73 75 291 7

T20 Philip Kasozi (UGA)                 69 70 72 81 292 8

T24 Adolf Muhumuza (UGA)         72 74 73 75 294 10

29 Rodell Gaita (UGA)                     70 76 76 77 299 15

T30 Richard Baguma (UGA)          73 71 76 80 300 16

T30 Ibrahim Aliga* (UGA)              70 74 76 80 300 16

32 James Koto* (UGA)                    71 72 76 82 301 17

* Denotes amateur player


CAST OF UGANDA PRO OPEN WINNERS

2021: Jastas Madoya (KEN)

2020: Robson Chinhoi (ZIM)

2019: Muthiya Madalisto (ZAM)

2018: Dismas Indiza (KEN)

2017: Stephen Ferreira (POR)

2016: Joshua Seale (RSA)

2015: Muthiya Madalitso (ZAM)

2014: Deo Akope (UGA)

2013: Vincent Byamukama (UGA)

2012: Dismas Indiza (KEN)

2011: Dismas Indiza (KEN)

2010: Jean Baptiste Hakizimana (RWA)

2009: Richard Ainley (KEN)

2008: Dismas Indiza (KEN)

2007: Dismas Indiza (KEN)

2006: Deo Akope (UGA)

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