Open championships are more often than not 'OPEN' affairs the world over. The 70th Tusker Malt Lager Uganda Ladies Open Championship is bound to be not any different when it tees off this morning at the par-72 Uganda Golf Club (UGC) Kitante course.
But again, no championship starts without a special rota of those highly-rated to grab podium places at the end of the 54 holes of play - in this case.
Irene Nakalembe, the lowest handicapped lady golfer in Uganda at 3, and her younger adversary Martha Babirye are every pundits pick to stand, lifting aloft the glittering trophy at the 18th green in-front of a controlled gallery due to the strict Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic on Saturday.
There is surely going to be a thin line between being a fierce competitor and a mere participant for the 33 local ladies in the main event - after the pandemic made it impossible for the elite legion from Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe to make the voyage to Uganda for this edition.
Revamped Kitante course
Babirye and Nakalembe may be chest-thumping favourites but on a revamped Kitante-course and with the rains like to have a say with the wet and soggy course in play the trio of Tooro's Peace Kabasweka (h/c 5), Uganda Ladies Golf Union (ULGU) president Eva Magala (h/c 5) and left-hander Gloria Mbaguta (h/c 7) have already been earmarked as the dark horses and cannot be written off as they can throw a spanner in the works.
"For us ladies, anyone with a handicap of five and below can win," said Nakalembe, a dominant force in the ladies game with an enviable six Entebbe Ladies Open gongs in her closet and only comparable to Alice Kego (a record 12 Uganda Ladies Open titles) and professional Flavia Namakula (5 Uganda Open titles).
"Don't write off anyone. Of course my young sister Babirye will be the top favourite after her feat last year."
Babirye helped Uganda reclaim the 'Holy Grail' from the tourists at her home course - The Lake Victoria Serena Golf Resort & Spa - last year by one stroke, something synonymous with Nakalembe who has scooped most of her gongs on the Entebbe turf where she is based.
"That is the game changer for all of us. We have all been winning on courses where we practice most. But Kitante is not new to us. We have all won there before and our practice scores have been good. It is going to be an interesting championship," said the 24-year-old Babirye, a solid handicap four golfer.
Babirye will have her first feel of the Kitante course at 11.15am, 45 minutes after Nakalembe has teed off her campaign. The event is co-sponsored Crown Beverages, Pinnacle Security, Case MedCare, Timothy Ojala Foundation, Master Power, Stanbic Bank, Next Media Services and The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews - the world's amateur golf ruling body.
PAST 11 WINNERS
2019: Martha Babirye
2018: Neema Olomi 2017: Angel Eaton
2016: Flavia Namakula 2015: Flavia Namakula 2014: Flavia Namakula
2013: Angel Eaton
2012: Angel Eaton
2011: Flavia Namakula 2010: Flavia Namakula 2009: J. Kamukama
TODAY - SELECTED TEE OFF TIMES
9.00am: Katy Kabenge, Monica Ntege, Robinah Angom
9.45am: Judith Komugisha, Rita Apell Akot, Peace Kabasweka
10.30am: Caroline Namutebi, Mackline Nsenga, Irene Nakalembe
10.45am: Regina Namata, Gloria Mbaguta, Lucia Alinda
11.15am: Anne Abeja, Martha Babirye, Jeninah Nasimolo
11.30am: Eva Magala, Rita Mukasine, Sheila Kesiime