The 72-hole competition has attracted 103 players to the par-71 course in the quest for the 000 (Shs191m) purse with the hosts set to field their biggest number in the history of this Championship – 37.
That’s after Uganda Professionals Golf Association (UPGA) graduated 10 new pros including the 2017 Amateur Open champion Ronald Rugumayo a month ago.
“It is good for the locals,” Deo Akope, one of the two Ugandans to win the Professionals Open, said of the rise in numbers. “At any given time, the sport must grow. If everyone stays in the amateur rankings, then how will it foster growth?”
Akope is the country’s most successful player with two titles in 2006 and 2014 but his counterparts must vindicate their numbers here in a star cast field.
US-based Patrick Olobo and Deus Kitata, rookies Rugumayo, Adolf Muhumuza and youngest pro 18-year-old David Kamulindwa among others, plus long-serving Phillip Kasozi, Fred Wanzala, Brian Mwesigwa, Denis Anguyo, 2013 winner Vincent Byamukama have a duty to end the four-year dominance by the foreigners.
“Definitely,” Akope said, “But the course is playing funny, a bit dry. So one has to be patient with certain shots. Compared to last year, I have had more preparation as in Entebbe, I have less work to do unlike in Kitante,” he added.
But this is the first time where all past winners of the Pro Open are taking part, bar 2010 winner Rwanda’s Jean Baptiste Hakizimana.
Defending champion Portuguese Stephen Ferreira may have shot 84 in the Pro-Am yesterday but the Zimbabwean-based player is eyeing back-to-back titles.
“I do like the way the way the course sets up for me. It is a lot different from Kampala (Kitante) and has a very nice layout,” Ferreira said after carding 68 on Monday.
“Hopefully I can do the same as last year and do enough to beat the rest of the field. Will be focusing on hitting fairways and greens and trying to make putts.”
Meanwhile, 2016 winner South African Joshua Seale has also been here since Saturday and having shot seven-under 64 with five birdies and an eagle on Hole No.18 on Sunday, the American-based player wants to reclaim his honour. “I would love to win again in dominating fashion,” said Seale who tied sixth with Akope and Anil Shah last year.