From Eko Challenge Cup to The Nigeria Masters: 8 Parting Thoughts From the 2019 African Tour Season

The remodeled African Tour’s 2019 season was an absolute success. Why was it so memorable? From Francis Epe's transcendent win to Vincent Torgah’s major dominance, we look back at one of the Tour’s best years in recent memory.

 

After successfully staging nine successive events in 2019, the effulgent African Tour season wrapped up on the 30th of November with the Nigerian Masters, which saw Vincent Torgah  pick up his third Nigeria Masters victory and his sixth tittle of the season and remains at the first spot on the Tour’s Order of Merit.

 

1. You have to cherish things when they work out. Vincent Torgah rightly won the Nigeria Masters and the Tour’s Order of Merit Ranking. Fittingly, because he was the most consistent player all year, this is because his overall strokes gained was the highest of any season on the Tour in previous years. Not only did he win the biggest tournament on the Tour, he shot the lowest 72-hole score of anyone in the field at the "Nigerian Masters".

 

What a remarkable season it was for the Ghanaian: 9 starts, six wins, including a third "Masters” and "Memorarae" victories, three top 10 finishes, #11+ million naira plus 'on-course' earnings and the White Jacket!

 

We spent just an absurd amount of time watching the pros this year, but Vincent has one unique quality other players on the tour do not have; long driving distance coupled with consistency.

 

2.  If Torgarh's achievement was the most trending story of the year, Francis Epe's win at the Southeast-Shoot-out played second fiddle. Of course, becoming the only Nigerian to win on the Tour in 2019, after claiming the Inaugural "Southeast Shootout" in May last year. I want to believe that's a storybook stuff. As heartwarming as it was seeing just how much this meant to Francis Epe, he firmly believed this is just a foretaste of multiple winnings to come in future, despite failing to secure another win before the 2019 African Tour season ran out. He knows he is not the most talented player on the tour, he knows that this darn well could be the crowning achievement for his 2019 season campaign on the African Tour…and he celebrated like it. There was something so refreshing about that.

 

3.   Do we talk about a dream chaser whose dream came true on the African Tour? Then let's quickly be reminded of the Cameroonian professional golfer Pristhy Nji, whose dream came true after three successful seasons of consistent play and unwavering display on the African Tour. Cameroonian Nji Priestly finally won himself a title in 2019, with a breakthrough victory at the Maiden edition of the SHAGAMU CUP. “This is what dreams are made of. When I get up in the morning and I think about it, it’s been a dream of mine since I joined the Tour. I’m just happy to be chasing the dream". Nji said after he ended his tittle drought on the tour.

 

Nji's win at Shargamu is remarkable on so many levels.

 

Firstly, the sheer unlikelihood. At the nadir of his career on the tour, the notion of him making the cut at Shagamu let alone contending, let alone winning—was tragically farcical even though he was a 'never giving up type'. His dream of winning was almost fading off, a punchline, talked about more for his unorthodox swing than his golf. Counted out by virtually everyone, probably even himself.

 

Secondly, the textbook nature of the comeback. It was a progressive journey, one that started with him loitering inside the top 10 in the first two rounds @4_over par, before a bounce back to tie second in the third round when he posted a  67 and finally sealed the deal with a 3_under par in the final round.

 

Nji started the day tied second alongside Vincent Torgah & two shots behind Mike Ubi, who had shown no signs that he could leave the steering wheel. The leaderboard was comically stacked with huge names: Epe, Mapwanya, Magnus, Chibvuri, Chidi and Adegoke. They all folded, but he never did. A birdie at the 14th all but sealed the deal, and Nji eventually won his first title after trailing for 54 holes and that served to make that victory even more unbelievable.

 

4. Respect to Nigeria's 'Hit Man'. We speak, of course, of Sunday Olapade. A year after playing second fiddle to Vincent Torgah on the Tour money list and securing four titles for himself. The 29-year-old Osun State born golfer became the only player to have reached 2nd place on the African Tour's Oder Of Merit Ranking and Money list in a winless season. He posted five top 3s, three top 10s and a single top 15 finish in a remarkably consistent and profitable season, netting roughly over #5 million naira on-course earnings.

 

The most impressive part of his year, the dude played 9 times and came so close to securing a win with four 2nd place finishes. We joke about how “enervating” golf can be but traveling from city to city to play week after week is legitimately exhausting. Kudos to a guy who knows he’s young and that his body won’t ever be better equipped to handle such a workload. Nothing is guaranteed in this sport. Strike while the iron is hot. You can lose your game and you’re playing privileges with seemingly little warning. Get yours while you can.

 

5.   Olapade wasn’t the only outstanding player without a win last year. If there's anything to write home about! It should be Ghana's veteran player Emos Korblah in just his first appearance on the tour after a two-year break. The 57 year old had a tremendous campaign in 2019 sending out a very strong signal to the younger players of his return, few days after he secured his African Tour card for 2019 season through the Monday qualifiers in February, at the Eko Challenge Cup in Lagos. He followed it up with a third-place finish at the same event. The Ghanaian came close to winning a title at the fourth Port-Harcourt Classic where he lost to his compatriot Vincent Togarh by one stroke.

 

A quick recap of the Ghanaian. He never finished outside the top 10 at any event in all his 2019 campaign on the African Tour. In only 8 starts he had all top 10 finishes that included three second place finishes, a third-place finish, and he also finished 3rd on the Order of Merit Ranking as well as the tour's Money list.

 

6. The major venues last year were fantastic and though will not be hard to beat moving forward.  The Lafarge Elephant golf course in Shagamu was a punishing beast (as only 4 players were able to finish under par). Lakowe Lakes Golf Course inside the Lakowe Golf Estates was just an extremely beautiful place. Lakowe rewarded good shots and punished bad ones, which is all you can ask from a golf course. The garden city and the Port Harcourt crowd welcomed the African Tour like they’d been waiting for it for 100 years, and you’d be hard pressed to find any negative talk about the setup all week in the two events the golf club played host to. In today’s golf climate, that’s virtually unheard of.

 

7. To encapsulate just how much more important ball striking is than putting, here are the top 10 finishers in strokes gained tee to green on the African tour for the 2019 Season:

 

• Vincent Torgah

 

• Sunday Olapade

 

• Visitor Mapwanya

 

• Francis Epe

 

• Emos Korblah

 

• Mike Ubi

 

• Priesthy Nji

 

• Udom Saater

 

• Solomon Ideriah

 

• Kabiru Haruna

 

Eight of those 10 player made the Top ten on the Order of Merit standings. Here are the top 10 finishers in strokes gained putting:

 

• Vincent Torgah

 

• Visitor Mapwanya

 

• Sunday Olapade

 

• Solomon Ideriah

 

• Christopher Francis

 

• Emos Korblah

 

• Daniel Pam

 

•  Patrick Paul

 

• Kabiru Haruna

 

• Nura Musa

 

Only six of those 10 players made Top 10 2019 O.D.M list. The next time someone says “drive for show, putt for dough” to you…just smile to yourself. The big hitters really have higher advantages on tour.

 

8. Let’s not also forget about the most successful Zimbabwean on the tour Visitor Mapwanya, who had only five starts on the tour in 2019, out of which he secured a title at the B&E Matchplay, two second place finishes and two top 10s. And ended up fourth in the 2019 Oder Of Merit Rankings with over #4+ million-naira earnings.

 

The African Tour will be kicking off its 2020 season soon, after successfully hosting 32 events in only its four years of existence.

Enjoy the next few days of break on the African Tour. Keep striving and push harder! See you on the brighter side!

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THE AFRICAN TOUR 2019  |  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED