KAMPALA. Hardly a month into the paid ranks, Phillip Kasozi carries the hopes of a nation when he tees off in the prestigious Barclays Kenya Open at Karen Country Club (KCC) in the outskirts of Nairobi city this morning.
With no Ugandan having never made the cut at the four-day European Challenge Tour event, the former national amateur captain will hope to avert the tide and do more than break the cut jinx when he lines up against Germany’s Julian Kunzenbacher and Englishman Phillip Archer, who boasts of three career wins.
The trio get their campaigns underway on the back nine at 11.50am.
Bigger names including Uganda Professional Golfers Association (UPGA)aptain Deo Akope, Amos Kamya, Gerald Ayella and Herman Mutaawe have all tried and failed to turn the business bend of the cash-rich €200,000 (about Shs650m) tournament, but Kasozi is oozing lots of confidence.
“I have received a lot of calls and messages from guys in Uganda urging me to at least make the cut,” disclosed the 31-year-old after shooting one-over-par 73 in his practice round. “I got on the plane to play and win. That is my realistic target. If I wasn’t here to compete, I wouldn’t waste my time. Making the cut is not my goal, I want more. I believe we are all the sam.”
Playing as a country’s lone ranger comes with many obstacles including stage fright and loneliness but Kasozi has calmed down the fears.
“It is true the golf course can be a lonely place sometimes but I am here with Hakizimana (UPGA member Jean Baptiste) and I know most of the Kenyan pros. So I am not alone. All I have to do is to play some unders because that is all it takes to win,” added 2012 Uganda Open champion.
Kenya is fielding 22 golfers and Nigeria has Andrew Odoh, who has featured in the Sunshine Tour, in the fray with the majority of field made up of Europeans.
Jacob Okello is responsible for the best finish by a native since 1999, when he finished fourth in 2007, an improvement of one place on his best performance of the season before.
During this time the average position of the highest placed Kenyan golfer has been 21st, and Greg Snow has been the latest to take up that baton, finishing 10 in 2013. The Open started way back in 1967 and this is the fourth successive time it is being hosted at Karen.
FULL NAME: Phillip Kasozi
BORN: February 5th 1984
PLACE: Mulago Hospital
STARTED PLAYING GOLF: 2007
FIRST TOURNAMENT: 2007 Makerere Open
FIRST WIN: 68 nett in my first tourney in Group C (hc 28)
LAST WIN: Runner-up Barclays Challenge as a professional
HOME CLUB: Uganda Golf Club, Kitante.
TURNED PRO: March 2015
BEST SCORE: 66 gross at UGC, Kitante.
NATIONAL HONOURS: 2011 – 2014
2012: Uganda Amateur Open
2014: East Africa Challenge Trophy
2014: Ngorogoza Memorial Open
SOURCE: Daily Monitor