Golfers prop for the Open

(DailyNewsUg) Local golfers are unfazed by a gulf of international players that have confirmed participation for the 74th edition of the Tusker Malt Uganda Golf Open that tees off on Wednesday at the par-72 course Kitante.

According to Bernard Mbayo, secretary of Uganda Golf Union (UGU), there are 65 foreigners out of the 234 participants confirmed for the tournament. The foreign legion includes Aaron Simfukwe, who is Zambia’s number-one amateur golfer, 18 Kenyans, seven Rwandans and three Burundians.

Entries closed over the weekend. Nonetheless, the big number of foreign competitors has not bothered any local golfers.

“This is our course; it gives us the advantage over the foreigners. Though it is something we shouldn’t take for granted,” says Ronald Rugumayo, one of top national team players who will be competing in the open.

Rugamayo argues that recent history of the tournament does not favour foreigners. He notes the fact that 2007 was the last time a foreign golfer (Kenya’s Nicholas Rokoine) won the Open.

L-R: Uganda Breweries Ltd managing director Mark Ocitti, John Mwalimu and professionals captain Deo Akope inspect the course at Kitante ahead of the Open championship

The Toro Club golfer warmed up for the Open by winning the Mayombo Open on his home course last weekend. He beat former national skipper Adolf Muhumuza by four strokes.

Apart from the foreign contingent, stakes have been raised by the return of last year’s double Open champion Ronald Otile, who is currently on a three-year Elite Champ Golf Programme at Turks Academy, under the University of Pretoria in South Africa. Rugumayo admits Otile’s presence will increase the competition and excitement in the four-day tournament.

Uganda Golf Union (UGU) president Johnson Omolo says: “This is the kind of tournament the fraternity is looking forward to. These are some of the best players in the region. One could call it the Champions league of regional golf.”

Tusker Malt Lager has increased this year’s cash sponsorship of the Uganda Golf Open from Shs 200m to Shs 230m. An additional Shs 270m has also been injected into the tournament to cover logistics and other requirements, taking the total sponsorship kitty up to Shs 500m.

And an all-expenses-paid trip to Abu Dhabi awaits both the winner of the Uganda Open and the Professionals Open, which will be played on August 31 to September 3.

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