Olawale Ajimotokan in Ilara-Mokin
Kingsley Oparaku’s wait for 15 years to win his first ever professional title ended after he clinched the West Africa Golf Classics at Ilara-Mokin, Ondo State.
He carded a level par 288 at the Smokin Hills Golf Resort to overcome the chasing pack by three shots.
Andrew Oche Odoh, winner of the inaugural event in Abuja about 10 days ago, finished in second place at 3 over par.
Ebela Desire of Cameroon, Vincent Torgah of Ghana and Kamilu Bako of Nigeria finished in a three-way tie for third position at four over par, while Gift Willy placed sixth at +5 ahead of Emos Korblah of Ghana.
It was a nervy test for Oparaku, who was paired for the final three-ball with Ebela and Bako.
Early into the contest, his 54-hole one shot lead over Bako, evaporated by hole 4 following a double-bogey and bogey start on two of the four holes at the front.
Torgah, who lost the first version in Abuja in a demanding playoff, took the lead at hole 4. But he soon lapsed into a crisis from which he never recovered in the next 14 holes.
A visit to the hazard at the fifth followed by a bogey at the sixth distracted the Ghanaian and lifted Oparaku as co-leader after the Nigerian sent a 5-iron pin high into the par 5 fifth for a birdie.
After profiting at the 12th when he effortlessly blasted his second shot out of the bunker, Torgah let up by dropping shots at the 16th and 17th.
His trouble was highlighted by desperate flagging, hooking, slicing and a major rule relief at the par 4 15th from insect colony. But he finished among the leaders when he drilled a 20 footer for a birdie at the last hole and a tie for third position.
Oparaku briefly reached one under par with birdies at the ninth and 14th only to remit to level par after finding the fringe at the par 3 16th.
He made crucial saves at the 10th and 11th when he hit into the hazards only to make remarkable recovery.
His tee shot at the 18th landed in the bunker to the left of the fairway. But after reaching home in three, he saved par from inside 15 feet to win the tournament with a final day round of 74.
”This is my first career win as a professional and I am happy it has finally happened. When you beat tough guys like Odoh, Torgah, Korblah and (Mike) Ubi, ou gain confidence. Anybody can win with hard-work. I wish to thank the President of the West Africa Golf Tour, Emeka Okatta for an event well organised,” Oparaku said.
Odoh failed to mount a real charge in the second to the last group comprising Elisha Markus and Willy. He birded the 13th for a final round score of 72.
Remi Olukoya of Ikoyi Club won the 38-hole men’s amateur gross contest, while Tajudeen Oladipo from MicCom Club, Ada took the net prize at the Femaz Micro Financial Bank sponsored event.
The Chairman of Smokin Hills Resort, Chief Michael Ade-Ojo expressed delight that the facility was successfully deployed for the West African Golf Tour. He tasked the Nigerian professional cadre to take advantage of the course to upgrade their standard.
Oparaku E (NGR)
Odoh +3 (NGR)
Ebele +4 (CMR)
Torgah +4 (GHA)
Bako +4 (NGR)
Willy +5 (NGR)