By Moses Alsayed Lubega
Just when watching the final day of golfs Grand Slam is sacred for a golfer (active and retired) so, what made Uganda Amateur Open Champion Ronald Otile out of fashion with golfs unspoken rule on Sunday 21, July, 2019, I wondered?
On a day when Ireland’s Shane Lowry was rolling to the cup for a shot in history at Portrush Northern Ireland, a country rebirthed in Open Championship attire since 1951, Ronald Otile had just missed his own imaginary easy putt. He grumbled when I broke the news; ‘Shane is The Open Golf Champion’.
’Goshh!!!, I didn’t watch bro’. He felt pangs of a ‘Double Bogey’. He MISSED for a good reason, I later gathered: Otile is one of the Class Heads in his Sports Management Class at Livingstone College, Salisbury, North Carolina. The 22-year-old was discussing for Summer Students in class, exceptionally during the period of the year (summertime) when taking the foot off is required.
The following day, Otile was back at his predisposition (golf); hitting shots on the range, with reckless love and punch, as if to make up for lost time. Ronald Otile doesn’t let off in the summer; he once told me- ‘Champions never rest’. So, this time, I already had a clue why he is untiring in his quest for more mugs and would dare hell to retain especially this one -2019.
This year, no Ugandan golfer is favorite for the Uganda Open and it is not my calling. Colins Ajidra, Otile’s counterpart at Livingstone College told me the American Kids are coming to feature in the Uganda Open, so he cannot bet against ‘the greens gods’ who already inscribed the US flag on the mug. Sensing I was not converted, he added: ‘The American Kids will ‘eat up’ the Serena Course- don’t say I didn’t warn you! Colins AJidra a homegrown golfer from Lugazi Golf Club, Uganda, is chewing high on belief in the Americans’ but there is always an odd story from Otile. The treble winner of Uganda Amateur Open, has never shut down to a challenge. In vintage ‘otile way’ he made an oath; ‘I will chase them down’. And he is no acquaintance to safari adventures clawing back his prey. Last year, on his 22nd birthday, he predator hunted Kenyan golf prodigy John Karichu to reclaim the Open after a rare slip in 2017. Just over week ago, Englishman Tommy Fleetwood failed a twin challenge to cut a six strokes deficit against the bearded Irishman.
An imitation of the same this year, however, would fall flat; imagine Otile chasing down an American golfer six shots behind is likely to find a good number of them (American Amateur golfers) already at the Club House sipping on Lemon Juice. In other words, he will need a giant raise in faculty to force his will this year.
American amateur golfers from at least five colleges are sending their best players. Otile is well rounded in similar battles in the collegiate championships. He has watched with admiration (but not awe) golfer Alex Stewart with whom he shares a locker room on Team B at Livingstone College. Their battles in practice are indecisive on a clear victor. The born of Cuba City, Wisconsin is a top draw in collegiate championship. In April he helped Virginia Union Golf team to the 2019 CIAA Northern Division Golf Tournament at Virginia State University. He shot 142 for the tournament to win the individual title.
Another to look out for, Otile reckons is Deven Cerda a ‘good friend’ of his from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The 20 year old handicap one boosts an 18 Hole Average of 75. His sharp approach shots and studied regulation always places him in contention. At the beautiful Serena Course, the Red scores at Serena Leaderboard, must have reserved a place for him if not already. Both (Otile and Deven) will not find surprises from eithers bag. The duo often hold practice together and unselfishly tip each other.
Being at a known backyard is priceless in such course battles, but strangely the ‘strangers’ are likely to feel more at home than foreign. The pristine Serena Golf Course is much alike the known turf in the US. The lush, green fairways are smiling in favor of the American kids says Colins Ajidra. Ronald Otile agrees. The Salisbury Country Club where both train, hosts PGA events for American Junior Golf Association (AJGA)
Otile missing the cut at the 4th Carolina Amateur Championship where good friend Deven Cerda thrived, could prove a double edged sword in their upcoming battle. Since switching from South Africa to the United States at the statecraft of Mac Stephenson, Otile has tightened his approach and consistent pattern of play. That deficit he has markedly closed on American rivals. What he has over most, however, is the force of character. After all, he won three of the last four opens with his sheer will weathering the typhoon. No more at display, than in 2015, when on an amateur card, he beat (not stunned) a field of pros to win the Uganda Pro Open, a week after lifting the amateur open. Like he says, he can fail at some, but not belief. That much will count at Serena Golf Course.