Rugumayo, Kamulindwa carry Uganda’s hopes of first-ever cut at Magical Kenya Open

Moment Of Truth. Uganda’s professional golfer  Rugumayo and Kamulindwa (not in picture)are eyeing a historic breakthrough for the nation at Magical Kenya Open. PHOTO/EDDIE JOHN BATANUDDE 

What you need to know:

The partisan gallery will be hoping for another round of special shifts from the Kibugu brothers Mutahi and Njoroge, sons of former UGC captain Dan Kagwe,who both now each have the accolade of the highest placed Kenyan player in the last two stagings.

MUTHAIGA. The omens appear favourable for Uganda as the DP World Tour makes its return to Muthaiga Golf Club for the 55th edition of the Magical Kenya Open (MKO), with the opening round taking center stage today.

However, the bitter truth remains that no Ugandan golfer has ever made the money cut in the cash-rich $2.5 million (Shs9.6b) tournament. Despite the efforts of talented players like gifted Godfrey Mande, legendary Deo Akope, towering Denis Anguyo, hard-hitting Herman Mutawe, short-game specialist Vincent 'Araali' Byamukama, robust Fred Wanzala, and multi-faceted Phillip Kasozi, luck has not been on Uganda's side.

The nation now faces the challenge of breaking this streak, with the hope that a change in strategy might turn the tide. This year, Uganda is fielding two players for the first time – Ronald Rugumayo and David Kamulindwa, both Tooro-bred golfers. There is optimism that this duo might be the key to ending Uganda's historical struggles in the competition.

Uganda finest two

Rugumayo, based at Uganda Golf Club (UGC), secured his spot by finishing as one of the top two non-Kenyans on the six-legged Safari Tour Series final leaderboard. Kamulindwa, from Entebbe Club, earned a wildcard slot from Kenya Open Golf Limited (KOGL) after accumulating 111 points, just one point less than his compatriot.

As these two friends navigate the challenging conditions at Muthaiga, Ugandan golf enthusiasts eagerly anticipate them flying the Pearl of Africa flag higher than ever before.

“My target this year is simple,” said Rugumayo, making his fourth appearance. “I am aiming more than just making the cut. I want to do better than in previous years and make my nation proud. I have prepared extensively and faced tough tournament environments across Africa over the last year. Let’s see what God has in store for us.”

Rugumayo will have South African Eric Stanley on his bag, a celebrated caddie who helped Rugumayo’s playing partner Juan Carlo (J.C) Ritchie finish joint 11th with -12 over four rounds to pocket $34,230 (an estimated Shs133m) in prize money last year.

Taking Amin’s advice

For debutante Kamulindwa, this is an opportunity to make the most of his wildcard entry and repay the faith of his backers. “I am only here because of the people at Entebbe Club who picked me up and have never stopped believing in me,” said the 29-year-old former national amateur star.

“I am a good golfer but things had gone south for me when the covid pandemic hit hard. But I made a brave decision to move from Fort Portal to Entebbe and it has paid off.  Mr Kihika (Innocent), Mr Twinemanzi (Tumbweine) and Mr Lukyamuzi (Jonathan) who helped me with literally everything to-date. I have trained well in Mombasa at the picturesque Vipingo Ridge and I have a new set of customized Parsons Xtreme Golf (PXG) golf clubs.

“The golf here is like a boxing match and we have to borrow the words of our deceased president Idi Amin. If we want victory, we have to knock out our opponents. The cut will be tight and being here is a plus for me already but I am not satisfied.”

Kamulindwa made cuts at the Uganda Open last October, Sigona Leg and Limuru Leg of the Safari Tour to sneak into the coveted draw here.

While defending champion Jorge Campillo is not returning to defend his title this week, past champions Guido Migliozzi, Justin Harding and Ashun Wu are in action.

Kibugu excitement

A course that attracts plenty of home support, Muthaiga has a history that dates back to 1922, and has welcomed various changes over the years that includes the addition of lakes and faster greens.

The partisan gallery will be hoping for another round of special shifts from the Kibugu brothers Mutahi and Njoroge, sons of former UGC captain Dan Kagwe,who both now each have the accolade of the highest placed Kenyan player in the last two stagings.

Last year, it was Mutahi who provided the feel-good moment of the day on Friday, sending the supportive home crowds into a frenzy with a closing birdie in the second round to safely make the cut and ultimately donning the whole experience as ‘surreal’.


Day One Action@Muthaiga

Selected Tee Off Times

8.30am: Ronald Rugumayo (UGA), Sam Jones (NZL), Om Prakash Chouhan IND)

8.40am: David Kamulindwa (UGA), Lorenzo Scalise (ITA), Pieter Moolman (RSA)

7.50am: Dismas Indiza Anyonyi (KEN), Aaron Cockerill (CAN), Eddie Pepperell (ENG)

12.30pm: Njoroge Kibugu (KEN), Justin Harding (RSA), Romain Langasque (FRA)

1pm: Mutahi Kibugu (KEN), Dylan Frittelli (RSA), Ewen Ferguson (SCOT)


Edition: 55th

Location: Nairobi, Kenya

Established: 1967

Course(s): Muthaiga Golf Club

Par: 71

Length: 7,228 yards (6,609 m)

Tour(s): European Tour, Challenge Tour, Safari Circuit

Format: Stroke play

Prize Fund: US$2.5m (Shs9.6b)

Month Played: February

Tournament Record Score: Aggregate 263 by Justin Harding (2021)

To par:  −21 as above

Current Champion: Jorge Campillo (Spain)