What a golfing year it was! 2018 will go down as one the most eventful years where different golfers reached different milestones in the sport.
From the top amateur Ronald Otile, who won the Castle Lite Uganda Open to the ladies like Irene Nakalembe and Eva Magala; to the national teams, all will have fond memories of 2018.
Otile continued to thrill the local golfing fraternity as he marched to his third Uganda Open title at the Entebbe course.
As he celebrated his 23rd birthday, Otile beat Kenya’s John Karichu by a stroke in another thrilling, dramatic and nervy finish to the Castle Lite sponsored tournament; winning his third Uganda Open title and joining Stephen Birungi and Deo Akope who won it three times before since 1997.
Otile returned 285 gross over the four rounds edging not only Karichu but also Edwin Mudanyi, who saved the best for last producing the best day’s score of 68, to tie in second place with Karichu with 286 gross each.
Otile (pictured extreme right) had a bad start in the final round and had by the 6th hole given away his third round, three-stroke lead and was by the 12th hole trailing by five strokes, having scored 9 on the par-5, hole No. 11, with six holes to play. By now, most of his followers in the gallery that was following the action had all given up on him as he continued to struggle on the day.
But a par on hole-No.13 and subsequent birdies on holes; 14, 15, 16 and on the 18th ensured the University of Pretoria student won to send the spectators into jubilation.
Herman Mutebi, who had a good outing before succumbing to pressure finished fourth with Joseph Cwinyai, Daniel Baguma, Joel Basalaine and Asharaf Bagalana all making a top ten finish.
What next for Otile?
“After the third win, my target was on turning pro but I have since secured a scholarship in the USA. So I will go play some college golf and study as well, I’ll stick to that for now. I’m not turning pro soon maybe after college in the USA” Otile said.
Uganda’s Martha Babirye (center) receives the winners trophy from Castle Lite Brand Manager Julian Ssentamu (left) and ULGU president Eva Magala. PHOTO: Michael Nsubuga
After playing second fiddle to Zimbabwe-based Portuguese golfer Stephen Ferreira last year and to South Africa’s Joshua Seale the previous year, Kenya’s Dismas Indiza emerged the Uganda Open professional’s winner and bagged sh41m, adding to his 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2012 wins.
Indiza carded 274 gross, four and eight strokes better than Greg Snow and Zambia’s John Moore Dayne, who finished second and third respectively.
Ugandan professional golfers could only take sh45m out of the sh185m that was at stake at the Castle Lite sponsored event. Uganda’s best players in the tournament Kampala’s Dennis Anguyo and Tooro Club’s Happy Robert, who tied in fourth place took home sh10m each while Richard Baguma and Willy Kitata, who tied in tenth shared out sh8m between themselves, with the rest of the 12 Ugandans, who made the cut sharing out sh13m.
Ladies will celebrate 2018
In the ladies version, Tanzania Alusha Gymkhana Golf Club’s handicap-5 player Neema Olomi’s tournament Albatross on day two was the highlight and made the difference as she marched to her maiden Castle Lite Uganda Ladies Open title beating Uganda’s Martha Babirye who led the tournament in two rounds by two strokes, on her second visit to Entebbe.
Tournament favourite Irene Nakalembe finished third but she had earlier won both the Castle Lite Entebbe Ladies Open in March and the inaugural edition of the Uganda Golf Club Ladies Open in August.
Nakalembe also produced other podium finishes, winning the Nigeria Ikoy Ladies Open, finishing second and fourth in the Ghana and Nigeria Ladies Open as well as managing a fourth place finish with the ladies national team at the All Africa Challenge Trophy in Ghana.
Paired with Eva Magala the two also made the semi-finals of the Singleton Golf Challenge which was won by another ladies pair of Peace Kabasweka/Sheilla Kesiime who beat Joseph Mawejje/Charles Mubiru to win a fully paid trip to Dubai.
On top of winning the Nigeria Open at the Ibom Hotels and Golf Resort course, Magala played the game of her life this year after she emerged the best performer for team Uganda at the AACT in Ghana and finished second behind Nakalembe at the Ikoy Ladies Open.
At the Eldoret SOSIAN ladies open in May, she produced the best gross score and also achieved the same feat with a 69 gross during the Windhoek qualifiers in Entebbe. She traveled to Namibia with Charles Mubiru, Paul Baite and Benson Katema, who topped groups A, B and C during the four round qualifiers.
National teams deliver
Uganda boys’ junior golf team produced their best outing ever for the country, finishing third and grabbing bronze as the All-Africa Junior Golf Challenge held in Morocco, in March. Despite encountering rain and windy weather conditions in the opening rounds, the youngsters held on with Joel Basalaine, David Kamulindwa and Denis Asaba as well as Edrine Okong making history.
The following month Uganda’s senior team participated in the Africa Zone V Golf Championship at the Chapman Golf Course in Zimbabwe where they finished sixth out of eight countries.
In August fortunes changed for Uganda as they won the inaugural edition of the revived Africa Zone IV Golf Championships at the Nyali Golf Club in Nairobi.
A week earlier they had suffered one the heaviest defeats against Kenya, falling 19.5 – 6.5points in the Victoria Cup held at the Vetlab Golf Club in the same city and had to regroup quickly as the same opponents and others from seven other countries lay in wait in the Zone 1V.
Joseph Cwinya-ai and David Kamulindwa, Ronald Rugumayo and Adolf Muhumuza delivered the victory over their fiercest rivals who were earlier eliminated by Rwanda in the semis.
Juniors’ day out
Uganda’s budding golfer Keisha Wiltishire Kagoro made a podium finish in her first international competition in the 2018 South Africa Kids Junior African Challenge 2018 at the San Lameer country club last September.
She also displayed her endless quench for wins at the Junior Golf tournament and Camp that was held at Great Rift Valley Lodge and Golf resort in Naivasha, Kenya. The tournament and camp targeted East African residents attracted over 50 juniors’ golfers from the region.
Keisha emerged the champion in the girls category in this juniors events that was sponsored by the US Kids Golf who operate to mainly grow the next generation of golfers and enthusiasts using curriculum development, tournaments and provision of equipment during training.
A new exciting golf tour-the Tusker Malt Lager golf series to be played across the country graced the golfing calendar and will stretch into next year with six golfers winning themselves an all-expenses golfing holiday to Pattaya, Thailand in February.
Kihika wants more
UGU president Innocent Kihika who was elected in March now believes the different sponsors can now deliver an even bigger Uganda Open in 2019.
“We had new sponsors and to add to the excitement, a new venue for the Uganda Open which attracted more sponsorships to the event and they delivered more than we expected. The most important thing is that they were also very happy, which gives us a bonus for next year,” Kihika said.
The union also admitted the Mary Louise Simkin’s Memorial Golf Course, in Namulonge to the UGU membership.
It is also during 2018 that the Lake Victoria Serena Golf Resort opened its 18-hole course, adding to the four that already exist in the country. Five Ugandan golfers made a shot at the U.S Amateur Golf qualifiers at Pebble Beach course. Of the five, only Titus Okwong and Edrine Okong went past the first round. Joel Basalaine, Daniel Baguma and Ronald Otile could not make the cut after day one.
Next year, local amateurs will be graded with the introduction of an order of merit for the Union events where each will score points.