He does not get the praise he deserves. Neither does he demand for it. Many of those that are supposed to seek counsel from him have instead quietly gone on a merry go-round ridiculing his style of management and administration.
Despite his unconventional management style, the jolly good doctor remains unassuming and welcoming, mostly to his detractors. When he goes out to plot for success, he will deploy with the wit similar to the biblical ‘Wisemen from the East’.
If it is a party, he will sip a bottle or two of wine, frothy will be gulped in jugs and not bottles, and he will be the last man standing on the dance floor. He does not need any tutoring in merry-making!
When given the microphone, his speeches will never be par 3s, they will be par 6s because of his sheer will to preach and make sure others borrow a leaf from what he has not only practiced but also worked for him over the eons to make him easily the most successful sports administrator.
Anyone still in suspense? Wake up already! Yours truly is talking about no one else but Dr George Bagambisa.
Today, he is a scarce commodity within golfing circles after he retired from his procession and opted to go into ‘tree-planting’ business on a full-time basis. But he remains ‘the invincible and invisible’ permanent fixture in the golf development set up of the national teams and their fairytale stories of success.
Birth of Otile
I know of many people today that claim to know a lot about the new kid on the block – Ronald Otile. But this product of Tooro Golf Club in Fort Portal is anything but anyone’s find. The back-to-back winner of the Uganda Open in 2015 and 2016 was first given a King’s introduction to golfing fraternity in 2014.
Dr Bagambisa, as a captain of the winning Western Team at the 27th Inter Regions Golf Tournament in Jinja, spared a couple of minutes to summon Otile to the podium, who didn’t play in that particular edition but worked as a caddie together with other national team players because of superior tactics and deploying employed by Western, from the gallery.
As he embraced the current face of golf in Uganda, Dr Bagambisa bellowed; “This is the future of golf in Uganda. I have discovered gold in Otile. Give him all the support he needs. He will put our country on the global map and raise our flag for so many years,” he said in praise of the youngster as Western toasted to a record 17th title in Jinja.
Behind closed doors, Bagambisa had already relinquished his driver and a couple of clubs to Otile, who had previously played with an archaic set. But this practice by Bagambisa to ‘surrender’ his drivers and clubs to promising youngsters had not been an overnight occurrence.
Catching them young
Since 2009, when Doc had been appointed as the Uganda Golf Union (UGU) official in charge of development and international competitions, he had set out to change the face of the game in the country.
Prior to 2008 in the mid 1990s, he was the unseen force at Entebbe Golf Club (EGC) put at stake as little as Uganda Shillings10,000 for the sextet of current professionals Godfrey Mande, Amos Kamya, Dickson Lagoro and Innocent Opio, Henry Lujja and John Paul Basabose to challenge Deo Akope in a round of golf.
Akope would go on to triumph more often than not. But the catch was the sextet narrowed the gulf in class and went on to dominate every tournament on the local calendar in the subsequent years.
And if that is not golf development, then what is it? But anyhow that remains a story for another day.
But rewinding back to 2006 when Dr Bagambisa got into the system proper, he quashed the then ‘fake’ handicap system in Uganda and initiated inter-club tournaments.
He got Fort Portal to tour Jinja and Entebbe – the three hubs of breeding national team talent – for a series of match play/stroke play games. Got the national team hopefuls to battle and beat each other for the right of earning seedings in the invisible UGU Order of Merit Leaderboard and forthwith stopped the routine of veterans continuously representing the national team on the international scene.
All this while, players from all the three clubs were using his drivers and set of clubs and many talents including Ronald Rugumayo and Adolf Muhumuza – current mainstays on the national team benefitted from his kind gesture alongside the Jinja quartet of Ian Odokonyero, Fred Wanzala plus the Onito twins; Emmanuel Opio and Grace ‘Ocici’ Ochieng.
It was during this time that he got to force the arm of Uganda Sports Press Association (Uspa) to stop largely rewarding football at each of their assemblies. Enterprising Vincent Byamukama (now a pro) got the sports body’s first nod as sportsman of the month when uganda telecom (utl) still bankrolled the association. Bagambisa (read golf) never looked back from then on. It was an upward trend that brought fame to distinctive players like Akope, Flavia Namakula, Jasper Kamukama, Peter Ssendawula, Phillip Kasozi and Willy Deus Kitata in the subsequent years.
And although now Otile is being given all the praise, Bagambisa’s nursery is not short of seedlings. Youngsters like Michael Alunga are sprouting steadily and await their chance to blossom.
Son of the preacher
Like any leader with a vision to leave a legacy, Bagambisa imparted his skills to Kamya as early as 2009 when the former returned from Tygerberg Golf School in Northlink College, Cape Town.
When Kamya won the ‘Holy Grail’ (read Uganda Open) in 2006, Bagambisa never got tired of telling whoever cared to listen to drop a penny into the champion’s basket to pursue golf knowledge in South Africa.
And when Kamya returned as a qualified coach, it was Bagambisa that first gave him real employment by appointing him as national coach. Now it is easy to say that 33-year-old teaching professional learnt from the best because he has been on a winning run since he took over the reins from Akope.
It has so happened not by chance but because Kamya has remained insistent on the systems set by Bagambisa where players have to go for trials, be very disciplined, attend psychological classes and undergo numerous conditioning exercises among other tests before earning a national cap.
Kamya may be the legend as he has had a hand in five of Uganda’s six East African Challenge Golf Trophy titles plus that historic Africa Zone VI Championship triumph in April 2015 but Bagambisa is the real unsung hero for laying a solid platform that ensures sustained success.
Hats off to you, Doc!