Rwanda’s number one professional golfer and the 2014 Rwanda Golf Open champion, Jean Baptiste Hakizimana, has vowed to successfully defend his title when this year’s tournament tees off on today until November 14 at the Par-72 Kigali Golf Club course in Nyarutarama.
The 29-year-old returned last week from New York, United States to prepare for his title defence.
He faces stiff competition from regional elites including Kenya’s number one Dismas Indiza, Joseph Karanja and Sullvian Muthugia as well as Uganda’s Vincent Byamukama, Denis Anguyo and Amos Kamya.
Last year, Hakizimana fired an amazing 292 to deteat Indiza, who settled for second position with a total score of 297. Rwanda’s two other professionals, Ernest Ndayisenga and former champion Emmanuel Ruterana, finished in 5th and 6th position respectively.
Speaking to Times Sport on Tuesday, Hakizimana said that he is optimistic heading into the four-day tournament following excellent preparations while in the US that included competing in several mini golf tours like the West Florida Tours, which he says has improved his game.
“It is not always easy to beat Indiza, however the time I have spent in the US has been very helpful in improving my game, and I genuinely believe I can retain the title, it won’t be easy but that is how confident I am,” said Hakizimana.
However, the two-time winner of the Rwanda Open (2012 and 2014) noted that he is looking beyond the Rwanda Open glory and he is not taking anything for granted, adding that he wants to use the tournament to prepare for next year’s Golf Professional Tour in North Carolina and US Open qualification.
“My ambition is to qualify for US Open next year and I think Rwanda Open is going to help me prepare well because it’s also an international golf tournament attracting professional golfers,” added Hakizimana
According to the Rwanda Open organizers, the Rwanda Golf Union, this year’s winner in the professional category, will walk away with US$5000 (about Rwf3, 724,075).
A total of 70 golfers from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, DR Congo and hosts Rwanda will take part in both amateur and professional categories after Burundi’s withdrawal at the last minute.