Home boy Ssekibejja conquers Uganda Open at Kigo

Ssekibejja kisses the trophy he won at the 2022 Tusker Malt Uganda Open. PHOTO/EDDIE CHICCO 

What you need to know:

Since last year, Ssekibejja has been part of the national team. He got his debut at the Victoria Cup in Limuru, Kenya early this year but somehow, he was dropped when four were needed to play the Africa Region IV Championship in Kigo in July.


Andrew Ssekibejja never dreamt of it. He made his way into golf while seeking to start life out as a caddy at the Lake Victoria Serena Resort & Spa in Kigo in early 2017 following completion of high school.

But five years later, the handicap four player will he feel chose right after all he’s making the lemonade out of the lemons.

Ssekibejja on Saturday maximized the advantage of a relatively wide open race and knowledge of every spot of the par-72 course at Kigo to defeat a field of 90 men by five shots and lift win the 81st Uganda Amateur Golf Open title.

He finished the final day with a round of one-over 73 for the best aggregate total of 295 gross over 72 holes and perhaps, this was the least expected triumph at this Open since Ronald Otile took the fraternity by storm to win his first of three titles at Kitante in 2016.

“I am really so excited,” Ssekibejja said shortly putting for a par on the 18th green before being carried away his vociferous fans from green to the clubhouse marina in jubilation.

Ssekibejja first played the main Open in 2020 and after finishing beyond 20th place twice, he was this time immaculate and his calm demeanor came to the fore to hold a challenge from Michael Tumusiime while leaving defending champion Joseph Cwinyaai and Godfrey Nsubuga in his wake for the momentous feat.

Many men have come and gone with tasting delight at this championship and with the absence of Ugandan top cream most of whom are doing school in the USA and Kenyan rivals choosing to play their own Amateur Stroke-Play Championship in Mombasa, the ajar door widely opened for Ssekibejja. “It has been really a special week in my life, towards my career as well,” he stated.

“I am just starting to accept the fact that I am an Open champion,” he would later say after the prize giving ceremony at the 19th hole. “I want to thank my main sponsor Lake Victoria Serena course, Mr Suresh Patel, captain Jadu Patel and Halai Kartick. I am planning to put Serena on top whenever I go out there.”

Born to a mechanical engineer and businesswoman, Ssekibejja is the first from his Entebbe-based family to play golf. The Open seemed to be within his reach and then out of control but he got the proper edge on the penultimate hole.

Chasing air transport officer Tumusiime by two shots after Day Two on Thursday, Ssekibejja played three-over 75 while former returned 80 on Friday, implying the Kigo artisan took a three-shot lead going into the final round.

Since last year, Ssekibejja has been part of the national team. He got his debut at the Victoria Cup in Limuru, Kenya early this year but somehow, he was dropped when four were needed to play the Africa Region IV Championship in Kigo in July.

If one doubted his abilities on the fine greens of Kigo, Ssekibejja put them to bed on Saturday. He lead grew to four shots after he sunk his day's first of five birdies on par-5 Hole No.2 and when Tumusiime reacted with a birdie on par-4 Hole No.5, Ssekibejja had his second birdie there too.

His lead grew to six shots when he got his third birdie on par-4 Hole No.6 while Entebbe’s Tumusiime replied with a sorry bogey but it quickly back to a one-shot gap once Ssekibejja returned a par and double-bogey whilst Tumusiime smiled behind glasses to birdie and eagle on Holes par-3 No.7 and par-5 No.8 respectively.

Tables then seemed to completely turn when Ssekibejja bottled it again with a double-bogey while Tumusiime played safe for par on the next par-4 Hole No.9 to lead by a shot at half-way stage.

“After getting a double-bogey and another double-bogey, I was like a Formula One car,” he would later narrate. Ssekibejja’s wobble seemed to be definite when he fumbled with a bogey at the par-3 Hole No.11 while Tumusiime levelled with a par, gaining a two-stroke advantage.

Tumusiime’s missed putt for par meant his lead was cut to one on the next par-4 Hole No.12 and they were level on the longest par-4 at Hole No.16 when he again missed the putt for par, the Ssekibejja fans disrespectful going too loud before he settled for a bogey.

That agonizing loud roar was disrespectful to Tumusiime and it had happened all day. And the impact seemed to show as the man nicknamed ‘M.T’ finally crumbled to pressure on the next par-5 Hole No.17.

With Ssekibejja grown back into confidence, he was onto the green for two while Tumusiime’s tee-shot went right to the rough, had a third shot to the immediate bunker on the left of the green, chipped out but instead flew over to go far right into the rough.

It wasn’t over yet. His next shot was weak into the wide bunker on his left then chipped out to hit low towards the apron, getting onto the green for a damn seven strokes, as Ssekibejja was squatting right there.

Tumusiime completed with a triple-bogey while Ssekibejja claimed his sweetie birdie and together with the gallery, all could sense it, the Open was done and playing the 18th felt just customary.

81ST TUSKER MALT UGANDA GOLF OPEN

FINAL LEADERBOARD


1 Andrew Ssekibejja (UGA)              71 76 75 73 295
2 Michael Tumusiime (UGA)            72 73 80 75 300
3 Joseph Cwinyaai (UGA)                  80 69 78 77 304
4 Godfrey Nsubuga (UGA)                75 77 76 84 312
5 Ibrahim Bagalana (UGA)                77 75 80 81 313
6 Joseph Kasozi (UGA)                      78 73 81 83 315
T7 Titus Okwong (UGA)                   84 80 78 76 318
T7 Reagan Akena (UGA)                   83 78 75 82 318
T7 Edson Kabareebe (UGA)              74 84 84 76 318
T7 Felix Dusabe (RWA)                     75 83 80 80 318

SSEKIBEJJA AT A GLANCE

Born: Aug 22, 1995

Started Golf: 2017

Handicap: 4

Club: Lake Victoria Serena Resort & Spa, Kigo 

Best Score: 67 at Kigo

Kit: Callaway

Tee-shot average: 275 yards

National Team debut: Victoria Cup (2022)

Favourite Golfers: Dustin Johnson, Denis Anguyo 

CAST OF UGANDA AMATEUR OPEN WINNERS

2022: Andrew Ssekibejja (UGA)

2021: Joseph Cwinyaai (UGA)
2020: John Lejirma (KEN)
2019: Daniel Nduva (KEN)
2018: Ronald Otile (UGA)
2017: Ronald Rugumayo (UGA)
2016: Ronald Otile (UGA)
2015: Ronald Otile (UGA)
2014: Willy Deus Kitata (UGA)
2013: Peter Ssendawula (UGA)
2012: Phillip Kasozi (UGA)
2011: Rogers Byaruhanga (UGA)
2010: Brian Mwesigwa (UGA)
2009: Peter Ssendawula (UGA)
2008: George Olayo (UGA)
2007: Nicholas Rokoine (KEN)
2006: Amos Kamya (UGA)
2005: Charles Yokwe (UGA)

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