There was no writing on the wall that it could be her. Her name figured nowhere in the gallery’s minds when the sun customarily came out on the final day of the 68th Castle Lite Uganda Ladies Golf Open on Saturday. Now Tanzanian Neema Olomi has the audacity to extend her stay here and party away after she dug deep to stun the 40-man field and win the 54-hole competition with an aggregate score of 229 gross at the par-71 course in Entebbe.
When tournament director John Katto allowed her dance away after receiving her trophy from Castle Lite brand manager Julian Ssentamu and Uganda Ladies Golf Union (ULGU) president Eva Magala during the prize giving at the 19th hole, it was a moment well earned.
“I would like to thank God for life, ULGU, sponsors, all the players I was with from the first day,” Olomi began in her victory speech after dancing to Tanzanian artiste Harmonzie’s hotcake jam Kwangaru.
The Arusha Gymkhana Club player’s triumph put an end to an eight-year Open duopoly by Ugandan Flavia Namakula (now pro) and Tanzanian Angel Eaton.
And Olomi’s success story here is totally different. Normally, the pressure group delivers the Open champion at the end of the day.
But when Day One and Day Two leader Ugandan Martha Babirye was felled by nerves in the heat of competing in the unfamiliar pressure on the grand stage, she lost grip midway on Saturday for the Open to land in Olomi’s hands.
Babirye’s identical rounds of five-over 76 had given her a one-shot lead and Olomi, who had begun with 80 in join-tenth place, had only recovered with Day Two’s best score of 74 that included an albatross on par-5 Hole No.15 but was only good for fourth, implying being in the second pressure group.
While Babirye, pre-tournament favourite Irene Nakalembe and Tanzanian Hawa Wanyeche carried the attention, Olomi minded her business and produced a final round of 75 as Babirye capitulated to return 79, losing the war by two shots. “I did not start well and after Day One, I didn’t think I could have won because so many players were ahead of me,” Olomi noted.
Her final round was brightened by a birdie on Hole par-4 No.4 but she, however, fought to limit the bogeys to only Holes par-5 No.1, par-3 No.2, par-4 No.9, par-5 No.11 and par-3 No.16.
Leading all the way only lose it at the death should have hurt Babirye but for the individual who played in the pressure group last year but couldn’t finish in the top 10, there is all for her to smile here.
“Everything was okay but it was not a good day,” the handicap six player remarked after a round full of eight bogeys, two birdies and a double-bogey, “Pressure came in and I tried to handle it. My game has improved a lot,” added the 22-year-old.
The story could have been different had Babirye not carelessly taken three shots in the right bunker of the 18th hole for a triple-bogey on Day Two on Friday.
This week, the focus shifts to the amateurs competition where a host of local stars will be hoping to step in the shoes of Ronald Rugumayo who was triumphant last year.