Focus on Akope, Rugumayo

Perfect Gentleman. Akope has not won the Uganda Open in seven years but remains positive. PHOTO | EDDIE CHICCO

What you need to know:

  • Now a field of 96 players from eight countries will be in quest for the biggest share of the Shs100m purse staked by Tusker Malt will vie for the championship glory over 72 holes.
  • Two-time champion Akope is leading UPGA’s quest for this elusive silverware. No Ugandan has won it since him in 2014 but, Akope looks the part.

Local clubs are thrilled that none of the titles on offer thus far during the five-in-one Tusker Malt Uganda Golf Open at Entebbe Club has gone to the foreign cast.

Irene Nakalembe clinched the 71st Ladies Open title while Joseph Cwinyaai will turn pro next year as a satisfied man after winning the 80th Amateur Open crown.

Despite the ramifications of the agonizing coronavirus, that is the momentum of the Ugandans that the men in paid ranks would love to keep when the 16th Professionals Open tees-off at the par-71 course.

“I am not worried,” noted Deo Akope, the Uganda Professional Golfers’ Association (UPGA) captain.

“We’ve not had many events but the very few we managed to play towards the Open have prepared the guys mentally. The locals are definitely going to give a run to the foreigners.”

Now a field of 96 players from eight countries will be in quest for the biggest share of the Shs100m purse staked by Tusker Malt will vie for the championship glory over 72 holes. Two-time champion Akope is leading UPGA’s quest for this elusive silverware. No Ugandan has won it since him in 2014 but, Akope looks the part.

He has had an impressive year which has included becoming the first Ugandan to win a leg on the Safari Tour Series when he powered to a two-shot victory at the the Nyali Golf & Country Club in Kenya in mid-October. 

Besides, Akope has not missed the cut at any local event this year, finishing no less than fifth in all. And having finished second behind Zimbabwean Robson Chinhoi at Kitante last year, he has sights on a third Open title.

“It’s a strong field but I am going for it,” he said after returning level-par 71 during the Absa Pro-Am event yesterday. “I haven’t been playing bad in Entebbe,” he said about his home club.

“There are still a few areas to fine-tune but my game is at 80 percent, which is not bad. I have improved greatly in my putting where I used to struggle,” he added. 

Whereas Akope faulted and missed the cut at the Vetlab leg of the Safari Tour, his compatriot Ronald Rugumayo has not missed any the entire year.

He won the Rwenzori Open in Fort Portal, the Captain’s Bell and the Ladies’ Captain Prize at Kitante to add to a fifth-place finish at the Kakira Open in Jinja.

“It gives me confidence,” Rugumayo said of his form ahead of a third shot at the Pros’ Open. “That side, I feel good,” noted the 2017 Amateur Open winner.

Rugumayo carded one-over 72 with three birdies and four bogeys yesterday and he anticipates an improvement from ninth place last year. “I hope to play my best and put up a great performance better than last year,” he added.

Meanwhile, there are several UPGA players who are capable to taking charge of the clubhouse conversation including Phillip Kasozi who has never missed the cut at the Uganda Open since turning pro in 2015.

Fifth last year, Kasozi chose to skip the practice round yesterday. “It is about having the correct training and trusting your swing,” he said. Entebbe-bred pros like 2013 winner Vincent Byamukama an ‘Deco’ Mutebi, Saidi Mawa, Davis Kato and Abraham Ainamani lurk.

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