Olawale Ajimotokan in Mongomo, E/ Guinea
Englishman Craig Hinton, over the weekend, ended the three-year grip of Nigerian players on 3e Actuaries Equatorial Guinea Open Championship, following a three-shot win at the Presidential Golf Course, Mongomo.
Hinton carded an even par 72 in the final round to improve to 10 under par 278 for the tournament, beating Swede Peter Gustafsson. Zimbabwean Muthiya Madalitso finished third, five shots outside the lead while Xavier Puig of Spain came fourth at 3 under par 285.
Two-time winner, Andrew Oche Odoh, improved with a borrowed set of clubs, but a 2 over par 290 overall score, could only take him to 11th position, 12 strokes behind Hinton.
Another Nigerian, Gift Willy who won the 2014 tournament, finished in joint 15th with James Kamte of South Africa. The remaining six Nigerians that made the cut finished in the lower pecking order of the leaderboard.
Aside from Odoh’s 69, most of the players failed to sparkle in the last 18 holes, leaving Hinton helped by his third round performance 65, a new course record, to cruise to victory.
He made two bogeys and two birdies that brought his birdie haul for the tournament to 19, enough to hand him the prize cheque of $24,000. He went into a charged celebration with the local students that gathered at the course after he was handed the trophy by Minister of Mission Alevandro Evuna, who represented the Equatoguinean President, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.
“I am humbled to win here and I particularly enjoyed my trip to Africa. I struggled on the final day when I dropped a few balls in the jungles and made two bogeys. All three of us- Gustafsson and Madalitso -struggled on the front, but I am happy I sealed it up on Saturday and will be excited to defend my title next year on this great layout,’’ Hinton said.
Paz Echeverria of Chile overcame a final day charge by Paula Hurtado of Colombia and Luna Sobron of Spain for a four- shot victory in the ladies tournament. Echeverria, who initially hesitated in embarking on the trip because of the long distance from home, grossed 2 under par 286 to claim the prize money of $24,000.
“ It is a special victory for me because it is my last win in the year, coming before I take up a new job in January devoted to holding children’s clinic. I love Africa because my brother lived in Central Africa Republic for eight months, but I almost stayed back because of concern about the long hours of travelling, but I am happy it paid off,’’ Echeverria said.
Nigeria’s Uloma Mboku took ill midway into the tournament and shot 59 over par to finish in tied for 12th with Senegal’s Miriame Ndiaye.
A strong field of 70 male and female professional golfers participated in the tournament. The players were hosted by President Obiang, who expressed his desire to list the tournament on the European Challenge Tour as a way of promoting golf and attracting tourists to the country that is sandwiched between Cameroon and Gabon.