Fortis gives Ugandans rare shot at fame
golfing minnows Uganda, the opportunity to compete in this weeks
Fortis International Challenge is rare chance to shoot for the stars.
Godfrey Mande, 26, and Deo Akope, who is a year older, will tee
up against 16 other two-man nations from Asia, Europe and Africa
from Thursday where a top-five finish will earn them a priceless
ticket to Novembers Omega Mission Hills World Cup in China.
Thailands Thongchai Jaidee and Prayad Marksaeng, who have
a combined 13 wins on the Asian Tour, will starts as firm favourites
at Kota Permai Golf and Country Club along with Malaysian duo Airil
Rizman and Iain Steel and Singapores Mardan Mamat and Lam
Chih Bing but the boys from Uganda intend to upset the odds.
Golf is not a popular sport in Uganda although its been
around since our colonial days, said Mande. The English
Premier League (football) commands the attention, everyone will
stop and watch it!
As a kid, Akope head to the golf course and search for used or broken
clubs and turn them into a make-shift clubs. While he eventually
graduated as a civil engineer, golf became a passion although the
playing opportunities are restricted.
We used to live around the golf course when we were young.
Thats how we got interested in golf. We didnt have any
clubs so we played with sticks and tried to shape those sticks into
golf clubs, said Akope.
We would dig out own holes and make our own golf balls and
find about eight used or broken clubs and start using them as golf
There are two courses in Uganda where Akope explained that due to
civil strife in the 1970s and 1980s, many other facilities became
unplayable as because of the war, there were many land mines
around and it wasnt safe.
Both players are members of the Southern African Sunshine Tour and
harbour big dreams. While they know it is a long shot, Akope hopes
to hoist the Claret Jug at the British Open some day while Mandes
wish is to slip on the Green Jacket at the US Masters.
Right now though, their thoughts are firmly on the Fortis International
Challenge. They have paid for their own way to Malaysia and hope
to be rewarded with a trip to the World Cup, which offers total
prize money of US$5 million.
While Richard Lee and Stephen Scahill of New Zealand may not have
endured lifes hardship as the Uganda players, they are just
as determined to sparkle at Kota Permai.
Both players are keen to play their way to China after Michael Campbell,
the 2005 US Open champion, failed to qualify automatically through
the Official World Golf Ranking.
First time for me and Im looking forward to it. Stephen
and I have not played together since we were amateurs some 15 years
ago and hopefully, we can play well, said Lee, a one-time
winner on the Asian Tour.
The only time Scahill featured in the World Cup was back in 1999
when the team event was staged in Malaysia and he was thrilled to
be back. Our aim is to get into the top-five.
New Zealand has a proud history in the game for a small country
and we like to continue with that. We tend to have somebody representing
New Zealand on any given Tour worldwide and weve played in
the World Cup a lot.
It would have been a shame to not have a team in the World
Cup this year following last years absence and well
be doing our best to get New Zealand back in, he said.
Swaziland withdrew today which reduced the number of teams to 17.
The Fortis International Challenge will use the fourball (better
ball) format in the first and third rounds and foursomes (alternate
shot) in the second and final rounds.
Chinese Taipei (Lin Wen-tang, Lin Wen-hong)
Ghana (Emos Korblah, Victor Brave Mensah)
Holland (Robert-Jan Derksen, Maarten Lafeber)
Hong Kong (James Stewart, Wong Woon Man)
Korea (Lee Sung, Lee Seung-ho)
Myanmar (Zaw Moe, Soe Kyaw Naing)
Malaysia (Iain Steel, Airil Rizman)
Mauritius (Billy Narraina, Vishnoo Seeneevassen)
New Zealand (Stephen Scahill, Richard Lee)
Pakistan (Muhammad Munir, Matloob Ahmed)
Philippines (Tony Lascuna, Gerald Rosales)
Russia (Korchak Igor, Ostankov Victor)
Singapore (Lam Chih Bing, Mardan Mamat)
Switzerland (Martin Rominger, Robert Wiederkehr)
Slovenia (Andrej Kraljic, Janez Grilc)
Thailand (Thongchai Jaidee, Prayad Marksaeng)
Uganda (Deo Akope, Godfrey Mande)
September 25, 2007