What you need to know:
- Golf. The last two editions the Uganda Amatuer Open have been won by Kenyans Daniel Nduva and John Lejirma. Now, Ugandans led by national team captain and seed one Joseph Cwinyaai are keen on wrestling back the title when 102 players compete over four days at the 80th edition at Entebbe.
In previous two editions, Kenyans have unexpectedly pulled the rug under the feet of the native players to win the coveted Uganda Amateur Golf Open championship.
In 2019, Daniel Nduva was not even in the pressure group on the final day but he led a rare 1-2-3 for Kenya at the Lake Victoria Serena Resort in Kigo.
Last year at Kitante, John Lejirma emerged from the shadows of Ugandans Joseph Cwinyaai, Michael Alunga and Christopher Baguma to floor that pressure group and win the Open by three shots.
Oddly before 2019, this championship had not been won by a non-Ugandan since Kenyan Nicholas Rokoine in 2007.
Ahead of the 80th Tusker Malt Uganda Open which tees-off this morning at the par-71 course in Entebbe, Kenya has entered nine players led by Lejirma but the Ugandans want to end that mission and some restore parity this time.
“We do not want to lose this Open to the Kenyans again,” Cwinyaai said yesterday. “Our mission is to keep this,” the national team captain noted. Like last year, Cwinyaai is once again the pundits’ tournament favourite.
Twice fourth at the last two editions, the Tooro-bred player is intent on winning it this time when a field of 102 players from eight countries vie for glory over 72 holes in four days.
Contrary to previous times where he’s had stern tests at different courses, this time, Cwinyaai, like many of his counterparts, has had very few tournaments to play thanks to Covid-19 disruptions.
“It has been a boring year because of few tournaments,” said the handicap +2 player who won the Rwenzori Open in Fort Portal back in March and later finished as Uganda’s best in fifth at the 31st Kenya Amateur Stroke-play Championship in Nakuru last month.
But sensing that gap, Uganda Golf Union (UGU) set up a camp for the top amateurs at Entebbe just before this Open. And by yesterday, Cwinyaai had accumulated 10 practice rounds with a best of score five-under 66 comprising eight birdies and three bogeys on Sunday.
“This time, I am quite happy that the UGU has chipped in for us to prepare for this Open to help us all national team players,” he said. “I would like to give it a good start so that I do not put myself under pressure on the last day.”
Cwinyaai is intent on turning professional and this appears to be his last shot at the coveted title, something he has been chasing since 2013.
But whereas he’s focused on sealing the perfect gift ahead of his 27th birthday on November 30, in-form Kenya number three Lejirma wants to retain his title. “Yes, I am coming” said the Railways Club player.
There is also an unknown quantity in South Korean KJ Lee whose handicap is +2, like Lejirma and Cwinyaai. That’s the same for Amon Bwambale and Cwinyaai’s friend Denis Asaba from Tooro.
The clubhouse conversations running until Saturday may as well be dictated by Uganda Golf Club’s trio of Alunga, Morris Ashaba and Ibrahim Bagalana but Kilembe’s experienced Rodell Gaita can’t be overlooked either.
Then, Lugazi’s Ibrahim Aliga, Namulonge’s James Koto, Godfrey Nsubuga and last year’s runner-up Joseph Kasozi who have been in the UGU camp, are part of that champagne discussion as well.
Kakira Open champion Grace Kasango and Namulonge Open winner Marvin Kibirige will be in the mix too.
FORMER AMATEUR OPEN WINNERS
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)