IN KAMPALA, UGANDA
Stephen Ferreira threatened the par-72 Uganda Golf Club (UGC) Kitante course record of nine-under-par 69 with a dazzling round of six-under-par 69 onFriday and buoyantly stated: “I am here to win the championship.”
The course record was set by Uganda Professionals Golfers Association (UPGA) captain Deo Akope in 2010 and then equalled by Kenyan left-hander Richard Ainley in 2011.
But Ferreira deserved all the plaudits on Day Three of the 12th Tusker Malt Uganda Open Golf Championship that saw many of the professionals that made the money cut unleash their best returns thus far.
The Portuguese star-man started the tournament with a round of 76 in the Pro-Am, shot level-par 72 to finish fifth on Day One and then managed one-under-par 71 on Day Two to climb into second – three strokes off the pace set by early bird Dismas Indiza of Kenya.
But he erupted like a volcano Friday and took advantage of Indiza’s worst return to open up a six-shot margin at the top of the leaderboard with one round to play Saturday.
The affable Ferreira sank seven birdies after 10 holes of play to edge into the lead. And by then the course record was as good as gone with the wind. But a spate of bogeys on the par-4 No.16 and par-3 No.17 plus a double-bogey on the difficult No.12 ensured history isn’t rewritten – for now.
But he still showed his strong mentality by managing three birdies on the back nine to finish with 10 on the day.
"The game is going pretty solid. I have been playing nicely the last couple of days. I have just been playing putt and drop but today I dropped very well and it was the main difference than the previous two days,” Ferreira, who is born of a Zimbabwean mother, told Nation Sport.
But it will not be only Ferreira hoping for a perfect final kick. The chasing pack led by Mumias Sugar’s veteran Indiza will be itching to wrap it up in style.
"The course was fine. The only problem was with my tee-shots. I had bad tee-shots. I went to the bunker on No.4 and that is where I lost it from. The final round will be better,” said Indiza, in a defiant tone, after he returned to the clubhouse with a forgettable round of five-over-par 77.
Fellow countryman Brian Njoroge, too, will be hoping Lady Luck stays on his side after he managed to leap 11 places up the leaderboard to finish joint eighth on the day with UPGA captain Akope.
Njoroge found the sweet spot with his irons sinking birdies on No.2, 5, 13 and 15 despite bogeying the 11th as justified by his return of three-under-par 69 for a tally of 219 after 54 holes.
“It was a steady round. My target is to have a solid final round. If can take advantage of the putts, then I will stay afloat,” said Njoroge.
For two-time winner Akope, who maintained his position from Day Two, the final day is going to be all about calmness. “It was an average round for me. I was playing well but not putting. After the rain, the greens were not friendly to me. I think I played 10 extra putts. I am going to give myself a chance to play a good round tomorrow. And if I can remove the plus from my score, then I will be happy with whatever position I finish,” Akope told Nation Sport.
The Kenyans closed the round yet again with the bragging rights as five of them are on the leaderboard’s top 10 of the coveted Sh4m showpiece including Anil Shah, Rizwan Charania and David Wakhu.