Ugandan Martha Babirye’s quest for the title at the 68th Castle Lite Uganda Ladies Open turned out a botched matter at the eleventh hour in Entebbe on Saturday.
Even if she hugged Ugandan Irene Nakalembe and Tanzanian Hawa Wanyeche after putting for par on the green of Hole No.18 following a cagey pressure group contest, the Day One and Day Two leader could only afford a plastic smile in front the tournament’s biggest gallery over the three days.
“Everything was okay but it was not a good day,” Babirye would say after a disappointing finish on Saturday. The pacemaker had carded eight-over 79 in the final round of the 54-hole competition but that blurred her opening two identical rounds of 76 at the par-71 course.
That is what paved way for Tanzanian Neema Olomi to emerge as best after producing a final round of 75 to take the Open home. It now means that Tanzanian players have won the Open on the last two occasions, with Ugandans taking bridesmaid positions.
Nakalembe paid for inconsistency on the final two days and lost the 2017 title to Angel Eaton by two strokes at the par-72 Uganda Golf Club in Kitante.
One could say the same for Babirye. Why? She could have wrapped the Open title on Friday but ended up taking three shots on the right bunker of the par-5 No.18, carding a triple-bogey.
“That is where I lost the Open,” Babirye would later admit. Olomi was four shots behind Babirye after Day in tenth place and the Tanzanian carded an albatross on par-5 Hole No.15 to return the best score of 74 on the same day and there lies the irony.
Even if the number of tournament participation increased, the argument that Flavia Namakula’s void has never been filled ever since she crossed to the professional ranks in 2016, was enhanced by the failure of Ugandans to shine on their own stage.
One bitter element was the caddies as Olomi managed to get experienced John Walusimbi whereas Babirye’s had hardly spent three months at Entebbe.
“I want to thank him. He helped me a lot,” Olomi said of Walusimbi. “She told me she has pressure and fears people and I knew that I had to shield her,” Walusimbi said.
He recalled an incident, “She three-putted on Hole No.2 on Day and I told her not to be firm on the greens because they are fast here.” “I noticed Olomi had a problem with her driver on Day One as she was hitting to the woods then we switched to a 3-wood on the par-5 and par-4s then results changed on Day Two and Three,” added Walusimbi who had interacted with Olomi via Facebook for a year.