KAMPALA. The door is ‘Wide Open’. That has been the most cracked joke over the last few days at the par-72 Kitante course – venue for the 67th Tusker Malt Uganda Ladies Amateur Strokeplay Open that tees off today.
‘Wide Open’ may have been loosely used by the ever-cheerful fraternity members but for the analytical pundits it is as good as true a statement, if current times are anything to go by.
Why? The three-in-one showpiece’s opener has been robbed of its poster girl – Flavia Namakula – who joined the money-spinning ranks at the turn of the year. Namakula completed a three-peat last year when she rallied to outlast the chasing pack by six strokes on an eventful final day.
That was her fifth title since 2010 and with many starting to hint that the 30-year-old had the quality to threaten Alice Kego’s 12-title record, the UPDF Sergeant prematurely quashed the predictions by turning pro. And without her, the three-day event will not only welcome a new champion but also be ‘wide open’ indeed.
Entebbe-based Irene Nakalembe will bear the nation’s burden as the locals ‘pray’ that the title stays home. “I am going to play to win it,” said Nakalembe, who tees-off at 8.40am in the day’s second threesome with Aisha Halaka and Annette Kiconco. “If I don’t, I will be disappointed. I either win or get disappointed. I pray it goes the way it is supposed to go.”
The handicap five player has been consistent at the Open, finishing third and joint-second with Madina in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Of the 66 players, the dozen of Tanzanians in the mix will offer Nakalembe, who is seeking to break her duck, more than a stern test.
Atop the list of challengers is the celebrated pair Iddi Madina and two-time winner Angel Eaton. Both have and know what it takes to win at the big stage. “Those are good players. I have played with them before but come Thursday (today), it will be a very different chapter for all of us. No one knows what will happen until we begin. Everyone wants to win. The harder you work, the luckier you get,” Nakalembe said about her friendly foes.
Eaton plays alongside Sophia Mathias and Peace Muyege at 9.40 am whereas Madina will have upcoming Lugazi starlet Martha Babrirye and Uganda-based Kenyan Wayua Mululu in her company at 8.30am.
SELECTED GROUP TEES
8.30am: I. Madina, M. Babirye, M. Wayua
8.40am: I. Nakalembe, A. Haluku, A. Kiconco
9am: E. Magala, P. Nalwoga, G. Luka
9.30am: H. Wanyenche, K. Kabenge, A. Khamis
9.40am: A. Eaton, S. Mathias, P. Muyege
10.40am: G. Mbaguta, P. Charumbira, E.Kwueme