Nakalembe finally wins Uganda Open

A dream come true. Nakalembe celebrates with her trophy on Saturday. PHOTO / EDDIE CHICCO

What you need to know:

  • Twice second in 2017 and 2019, third in 2016, 2018 and 2020, she could have given up on the biggest trophy in women’s golf in the land.

No player has endured heartbreaks in quest for Uganda Ladies Golf Open title like Irene Nakalembe.

Twice second in 2017 and 2019, third in 2016, 2018 and 2020, she could have given up on the biggest trophy in women’s golf in the land.

But when the Tusker Malt-sponsored championship returned to her home club at Entebbe for the 71st edition, Nakalembe ended that hoodoo by beating a top field of 31 by three shots after 54 holes at the par-71 course on Saturday.

Albeit nervous, the handicap four player fought to hold off the challenge from Kenyan Mercy Nyanchama by producing a final round of two-over 73 to finish with an aggregate score of 222 gross.

“I would like to thank God for this win,” Nakalembe said moments after receiving her trophy from officials of Uganda Breweries Limited (UBL).
“I have chased this trophy for seven years. I thank God that when it (Open) came back home, I grabbed it.”

A series of failures 
After finishing third in 2016, a treacherous par-5 Hole No.8 at Kitante saw her settle for second behind Tanzanian Angel Eaton in 2017. When the Open came to Entebbe in 2018, Nakalembe was fatigued upon return from the All Africa Challenge Trophy in Ghana and only came third to Tanzanian Neema Olomi and Martha Babirye.

In 2019, the mother of three lost to Babirye at the Lake Victoria Serena Resort in Kigo by a stroke. Last November, Nakalembe came third to Babirye who had usurped Peace Kabasweka in the last three holes at Kitante.

But not this time! Upon winning the record sixth straight Entebbe Ladies Open title, Nakalembe cut her dreadlocks and got a new look with short hair.
She then got engineer Yunus Baale to improve her mental craft while professional Vincent Byamukama came in with a tactical furnish. 

That appears to have worked. Nakalembe won the Tanzania Ladies Open in Dar es Salaam and also grabbed a third straight Ikoyi Ladies Open title in Nigeria just weeks to the Entebbe duel.

And despite trailing Day One leader Meron Kyomugisha by eight shots, she was calm and carded four birdies, two bogeys and a double-bogey for a level-par 71, which thrust her to the top after Day Two on Friday.

“I think I won it on Day Two. I played the golf I wanted to display. I had never taken a lead in this competition. I had always been trailing,” Nakalembe said.

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