Nakalembe in right mindset to pro ranks

Gone pro. Nakalembe plays in the Uganda Ladies Open last year. She decided to go pro instead of defending her title. PHOTO | EDDIE CHICCO

What you need to know:

  • Being a woman professional golfer from this part of the world is again harder, owing to the numbers and there are small voices thinking Nakalembe and Namakula’s careers could as well be over.

As several players mingled in delight at the Entebbe Golf Club gardens on January 22, Irene Nakalembe ironically cared less about the proceedings of the Singleton Challenge opener.

“I chose not to enter this event because I’m turning professional,” she said in the car park. 

A month later, Nakalembe met her word with action by completing paperwork to join the Uganda Professional Golfers’ Association (UPGA) last week.

“I made the decision because I have nothing left to chase in the amateur ranks,” Nakalembe said in an interview at the weekend. “I have got it all,” she stressed her point.

She was pushed to make the decision after she cracked the code to win the 71st Uganda Ladies Open title in Entebbe last November. Nakalembe had waited for eight years to touch this piece of silverware and the period involved two runner-up finishes and three third-place takes. And she never thought of defending it this year. 

“Not for a second. I had a chat with my manager Yunus Bbaale and we left it was time to move on. Winning the Uganda Open was a huge relief, it held me back for such a long time,” she added. 

Nakalembe becomes the second woman UPGA member after Flavia Namakula and the demands from the game are more.

“I’m making several changes – I’ve a manager, Bbaale, a training programme, among others. I’m yet to handle dieting but so far, I do gym, jogging and more range. Those were not on schedule, and gym was never considered when I was an amateur player.”

Nakalembe is already dedicating a minimum of three hours a day to training and that inevitably creates demand from her to succeed at golf and have time for her two daughters, on top of her job as financial advisor at CIC Insurance. 

“Since I have made it my job, it’s up to me entirely to adapt as quickly as I can. As a mother, I can’t fail to find time for my two girls. I haven’t been that busy with CIC, especially during Covid pandemic,” she noted.

Tough challenge

Being a woman professional golfer from this part of the world is again harder, owing to the numbers and there are small voices thinking Nakalembe and Namakula’s careers could as well be over.

“I won’t say it’s easy or difficult because I haven’t been there yet, but I also know the attitude toward something is in most cases very determinant,” Nakalembe said.

“My plans are different from the small voices, until what I’ve planned goes fatal, which is unlikely because of the big thought put to it. I’m sure I’m on the right track.”

Her focus is on the next UPGA events as well as securing entry on the regional Safari Tour Series.

AT A GLANCE

Full name: Irene Nakalembe

Born: 1985

Started playing: 2008

Turned pro: 2022

Home club: Entebbe Golf Club

Kit: Cleveland

Family: Mother of Two

Work: Financial Advisor at CIC Insurance Ltd

Manager: Yunus Bbaale

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