John Lejirma playing off handicap +4 outlasted Onassis Ndegwa in an epic 18-hole final round duel to win the 72nd edition of Carlisle Cup staged over the weekend.
Ndegwa, playing off handicap 12 was outpowered 3 and 2 in the scintillating finals played at the par-72 Kenya Railways Golf Club course.
Carlisle Cup was founded by former Kenya Railway Club chairman, GF Carlisle, Esquire in 1948 as a club match play championship event.
It's one of the four longest running club tournaments the other tournaments being; Railway Invitational, Mug of Mugs and Club Championship.
To ensure the continuity of the tournament long after his stint at the helm of the club, Carlisle bought shares in the then lucrative East African Breweries Limited (EABL) with clear instructions that proceeds from his investment in the beer maker would be used to run Carlisle Cup after he exited the “grand stage.”
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Lejirma, played a mix of power and mind games in his match against Ndegwa who posed a formidable challenge, banking on his vast experience and his mastery of the short game and iron game being his forte.
Ndegwa had dashes of confidence through out the round coupled with flashes of near despairs even after breaking his 5-iron on the par-four 12th.
From the onset, it was evident that it was going to be battle of wit, strategy coupled with power even as Lejirma routinely outdrove Ndegwa 50-100 yards off most of the decks.
Lejirma birdied the opener to take the hole setting the rounds tempo to Ndegwa who had a 12 stroke advantage in the match which started at 12:48pm.
On the second, Lejirma drove his tee-shot to the side of the green leaving himself with a sloppy chip-shot to attempt while Ndegwa struck his 5-iron plum-centre, 105-yards to the green.
Lejirma, pitched it way past the green as Ndegwa landed his second shot 22-feet away from the flagstick with an uphill putt to deal on the greens playing pretty fast thanks to the impeccable course condition by Greenkeeper Tom Osoro, they both bogeyed the hole to halve it.
On the third, Ndegwa sliced his tee-shot hitting a tree and landing back on the fairway, his recover shot rested inside the protective sand bunker.
A solid tee-shot usually referred to by his playing peers as “Kibuyu Boom” for the distance and sound off the deck, Lejirma drove it next to the 98-yard point from where he hit a high cut sand wedge shot into the wind onto the dancefloor with a 25-foot downhill birdie putt which lipped out as Ndegwa missed his par to halve the third.
Lejirma birdied the fourth with Ndegwa making a lousy par after missing a 6-foott birdie putt to halve the hole as well as the par-4 fifth.
Next hole, Ndegwa hit a soft nine-iron to the left side fringe while Lejirma rained his Titleist ProVX4 onto the green with a soft pitching wedge 8-feet past the pin, leaving himself with a down hill putt which he overborrowed missing a vital birdie putt by a whisker tapping it in for par and take the hole pushing his lead to 1-up.
On the par-4 seventh, a stroke index-1. Lejirma blasted his tee-shot 154-yards to the green from where he overshot the green, chipped it back 2-feet from the pin.
Meanwhile the pressure on Ndegwa whose dalliance with the driver proved disastrous heading into the forest, in between fairway number eight and nine from where he made it to the green on his fifth shot, even with a stroke, he couldn’t save face as Lejirma secured the hole with a par.
Things got a bit murky for Ndegwa after Lejirma carried his tee-shot over the decorative trees on the par-4 eighth 28-feet short of the green.
He then volleyed onto the green draining an 8-foot birdie putt while Ndegwa struggled with an 80-foot putt that lost steam making a par which saw them halve the hole for Lejirma to wind up the front nine with a 3-up lead.
After the halfway break, Lejirma took the 10th with a pulpable tension renting the air as the two went for each other’s neck.
Just like on the front nine, a bad decision costed him on the 11th dropping his lead to 2-up. Lejirma’s birdie on the 12th pushed him back, 3-up and further up on the 13th hole to 4-up.
Unfortunately, second thoughts on choice of club saw him loose both the ball and hole 14 to Ndegwa after he hooked it far left without trace.
At Kerio Valley, Lejirma couldn’t bring his chip shot to rest from a tricky position with golf god’s consoling Ndegwa with a fantastic sandy birdie which put Lejirma’s hold onto the lead in limbo.
A near mystical eagle from 138-yards by Lejirma on par-5 16th hole vanquished Ndegwa’s hope to make a comeback to a sticky end.
“I was up against a tough opponent in Lejirma,” said Ndegwa, he had good breaks which he converted into scores.
“I equally played pretty solid today, just hitting greens and fairways and but at some point, things caved in, at once and I lost”
With the win, Lejirma now shifts his focus to Uganda Open set for Dec. 1-4 where he will be up against other top tier amateurs from around the larger East and Central African region courtesy of sponsorship of Kenya Railways Golf Club.