Amos Nzeyi is from a very different world. He has a rags-to-riches story that wouldn’t just be the envy of many; its quiet humbling. From working as a casual labourer on the Kabale road, Nzeyi has risen up the corridors of power to be among the most influential people in Uganda as justified by the business empire he owns in the Pearl of Africa.
Towards the end of January, Nzeyi, referred to by many as chairman (because he heads many Boards in different companies), played a round of golf with the world’s No.1, Rory McIlroy. The Ugandan money magnet says this meeting wasn’t by accident.
How it all started Out of administration for star players and passion for the sport, Nzeyi has made it to the last three Omega Dubai Desert Classic tournaments. In enduring all these travels, Nzeyi was also looking at the big picture – to build rapport and mingle with the names that matter in world golf.
“When I became president of Uganda Golf Union (UGU), I knew I had a chance to penetrate the bigger playing nations. First I visited St. Andrews Royal in Scotland and I got good contacts,” Nzeyi, clad in a fitting chocolate brown suit, tells G100 Magazine.
“Given the degree of my PR, I also had the chance to interact with the sponsors of Desert Classic (HSBC & Omega). I managed to interest some of the dignitaries by requesting them to visit my country and more so told them about the wildlife that includes mountain gorillas and the tree-climbing lions in Uganda. I knew gorillas were a favourite among tourists and the mention of them would attract them as they have done well in the previous years for the tourism industry.”
His silver-tongue antics paid off in dividends when Adel Zarouni, an Omega official and the vice-president of the Arab Golf Federation together with his wife, accepted and toured the Pearl of Africa during the back-end of last year.
While in Uganda, Zarouni visited Kidepo National Park, Chobe Safari Lodge, White Horse Inn Kabale, Lake Mburo and the nine-hole Kabale Sports Club golf facility among others. He also had a chance to see mountain gorillas at Bwindi National Park.
Nzeyi also ‘appointed’ the affable Zarouni an ambassador of Uganda in the Middle East to market Bwindi and other tourist attractions.
Nzeyi’s good deed was rewarded with a priceless invitation to take part in the Pro-Am of the celebrity- filled Omega Dubai Desert Classic on January 28. The Ugandan property magnet didn’t do it solo. He spread the love, traveling along with his two sons (Alex and Andrew Nzeyi), his niece Lydia Mutesi and close pal Dr Kato Sebbaale, the proprietor of Case MedCare, who had his wife in tow.
Even Nzeyi couldn’t take in what lay in store for him on arrival in the gulf. Zarouni had drawn Nzeyi, the proprietor of Palm Valley Golf Resort in Kakungulu, alongside him in the same pool with Kuwait former banker and now businessman Mohammed, and the one and only McIlroy.
The quartet teed off at the lavish Emirates Golf Club, Majlis course at 7.45am and was done by midday in what Nzeyi prefers to call ‘the most eventful round of his life’. “It was a wonderful life experience and an opportunity to add top professional golfers to a list of important friends and contacts,” said Nzeyi, who is a 14-handicappper.
“It wasn’t just about socialising. It was much more than that. It was about building networks and seeing how not only me but how Uganda as a nation can gain from meeting an icon like Rory (McIlroy).”
During the round, Nzeyi had the honours of a full gallery following the foursome hole by hole, taking breathers for photo moments for event promotion purposes and some with Rory’s fans.
Endorsing G100 McIlroy not only gave attention to his game but also the autograph-hunting droves that had pitched camp in Dubai to catch the riveting action. After the round, Nzeyi’s chats and compliments paid more dividends as the Nike-sponsored ace donated to him his autographed cap, wwhich he had used for the round, and also signed one Golf100 cap after he had been told that the magazine works to promote golf not only in Uganda but also East Africa and Africa.
“He is a warm-welcoming and down-to-earth man who pays special attention to his game,” Nzeyi said about McIlroy’s persona. “He gave us a couple of other autographed golf merchandise. And that is when I thought I should use the opportunity and invite him to Uganda. I did and told him how the whole East African region will be excited by the news and look forward to his visit.
“Rory was positive about the whole idea of coming to Uganda to inspire a new generation of golfers and tour the wildlife as well. He promised to work with his caddie to ensure they find time off his bumper schedule and come to Uganda. Considering his simplicity, I know he will come.”
Nzeyi and the other Ugandans also got a chance to interact with a handful of other world beaters including Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Ernie Els, Joost Luiten and Thomas Bjorn.
After playing the Pro-Am, a sublime McIlroy showed great strength of character in the main event by getting the job done in superb fashion as the world number one inscribed his name on the iconic Silver Coffee Pot for the second time. The magical player shot 66, 64, 66 and 70 to clinch the meet’s 26th edition by three shots on Sunday, February 1. The event was one of three tournaments held in the UAE annually and is part of the European Tour.
What remains for the big visit to materialise is for Nzeyi and UGU to work in tandem partnership and make flawless preparations so that the eagle-eyed McIlroy honours the invite sooner rather than later.