Ugandan golfers celebrated the nation’s biggest triumph on Saturday when they clinched the Africa Zone VI Golf Championship title, becoming only the third nation to win the prestigious annual event, writes MOSES MUGALU.
By winning the nine-nation event at the par-72 Uganda Golf Club (UGC) course Kitante, Uganda joined the elite winners’ group that includes South Africa and Kenya. There was a big applause from the packed gallery on No.18 in reaction to Lawrence Muhenda’s sublime birdie shot against Zambian Aaron Simfukwe for the victory that sealed Team Uganda’s 18.5 points triumph in the four-day tournament. South Africa finished runners-up with 17.5 points.
Led by youngsters Ronald Otile and team captain Adolf Muhumuza, the hosts matched toe-to-toe with South Africa, the record 19 times event champions, right from the start. The hosts shared the leaderboard with South Africa for two days and broke away to the title by winning six points from the final round in last Saturday’s singles matches.
In his post-victory comments, an excited Muhumuza disclosed that they agreed on a game plan to neutralize South Africa, Kenya and Zimbabwe before the final.
“We set our target at collecting seven points so, we decided to attack them and it worked,” said 22-year-old Muhumuza, who beat Kenya’s Nelson Simwa in the final singles match.
At some point that plan seemed to fall apart as South African Matthew Spacey beat Robert Oluba and Otile lost to Kieran Vincent of Zimbabwe. But victories by Robert Bukenya, Robert Happy, Henry Lujja and Martin Ochaya over Nabeel Desai (Botswana), Willard Mkhwanazi (Swaziland), Charles Kambalame (Malawi) and Gabriel Shikodi (Namibia) respectively steered Team Uganda’s boat clear of the storm.
Luckily, South Africa suffered unexpected defeats to Namibia and Zimbabwe and those losses were gains in Uganda’s favour. However, Uganda’s emphatic performance from the onset confirms her victory was no fluke.
It all came down to thorough preparations by the Uganda Golf Union (UGU), discipline and commitment from the players.
UGU president Kiwanuka Kiryowa, who ensured the team got all the facilitation for three months while in camp, said: “I’m extremely proud of this team. They [players] exhibited a high level of discipline because they did everything from eating, sleeping to training on time. And none of them went out partying ever since we started camp.”
HOW THEY DID IT
On day one, Otile beat Zimbabwean Visitor Mapwanyi (two up) while Muhumuza picked up a crucial half point from highly-rated South African Matthew Spacey to propel Uganda into joint leadership with South Africa on 6.5 points apiece.
As the team upset the form books, Bukenya, Oluba, Ochaya, Robert and Muhenda won their matches, giving a perfect start for the host nation.
Inspired by their stellar performance in the opening singles’ round, Team Uganda continued with an all-out attack approach in the foursomes and fourballs round on Friday, winning six points to remain joint leaders with South Africa (on 12.5pts) and set a grand finale in the closing singles matches on Saturday.
Playing alongside Muhumuza, 19-year-old Otile came to the rescue in one of the toughest afternoon fourballs tie against South African pair of Jason Smith and Teagan Gauche.
While Muhumuza struggled in his putting, Otile stepped up to hit crucial birdies on hole No. 7 and 15 to peg back the South Africans and give Uganda a one-up lead. The match went to wire until the South Africans conceded on the final hole No.18.
The big victory for MuhumuzaOtile pair came on the back of their (3amp2) win over Zimbabwe’s Tonderai MasungaDocter Maphosa in the foursomes match earlier in the day.
Source : The Observer