Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
Francis Epe finally won his first professional title on the Nigerian Tour since he joined the PGA of Nigeria in 2011 following his victory at the 6th Pa Aikwuta Mark Memorial Tournament at Otukpo Golf and Country Club, Akpegede-Otukpo, Benue State over the weekend.
The six-year- wait bore every hallmark of specialty given that the Aikwuta Mark Open was the forerunner on the Nigerian Order of Merit Schedule for 2017 with a repertoire of the nation’s leading players in attendance.
Epe from Ikoyi Club 1938 reined in the final day pressure when he shot -2 under par 286 to secure victory and take home the winner’s purse.
The crunching nerve was in the composition of the final round last group where Epe found himself on the tee playing aside Sunday Olapade and Gift Willy.
After they all dropped shots on the opening hole, Epe drilled four birdies and 12 pars to steer ahead of the pack. He hit 14 fairways and all greens in regulation for a closing round of 70, his best round over 72 holes.
Emos Korblah from Ghana was three shots off the pace for second place ahead of countryman Vincent Torgah, who finished at +2 over par 290.
Elisha Markus, Willy and Olapade, whose opening tee shot rested in the rough to the left, shared fourth position at +3 over par 291.
“It was not an easy tournament to win because I was nervous playing in the last group. But I controlled my temperament and struck to my game plan. I reaped from vital birdies and par saves. I hit all par threes and never made another bogey until hole number 15. It is a great feeling to start the Nigerian season as a winner,”Epe summed up afterwards.
Apart from Epe’s baptismal triumph as a pro, the individual feats of Idris Garba and Amedu Usman were some of the highlights of the tournament.
Garba shot an albatross on the par 4 hole 4, while Usman made a hole-in-one at hole 9.
Danjuma Joel won the men Category 2 event with 131 nett, beating S. Igbetua by five shots while Blessing Obaje won the Ladies Handicap 0-36 gross prize with 146.
The sponsor of the tournament, Senator David Mark, who organised the tournament in memory of his father, said Nigeria would not be recognised as a great golfing nation unless the professional game was developed by amateur golfers with means and influence.
He said the Otukpo Golf Course that runs an academy for children is to encourage the youths to embrace golf and take the boys from the streets by channeling their energy into sports instead of activities detrimental to the society.