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Golf: Francis Epe wins maiden Meristem Open

BY Afolabi Gambari

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Francis Epe of Ikoyi Club 1938 evaded a stiff challenge from Ghana’s Vincent Torgah to win the maiden Meristem Open tournament on Saturday with nine under par after 54 holes of play at the Lakowe Lakes Golf and Country Estate, Lagos.

Epe, a former Nigeria Professional Golfers Association (NPGA) number-one ranked player, now tops the Professional Golfers’ Developmental Tour 9PGDT) ranking that was launched on January 26.

The three-day event ended on January 29.

“I had come here in late December and spent some days on this course preparing,” he said.

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“So when this event started, and the pressure mounted, especially in the last round, I knew I had to resort to some basic strategies to scale the hurdles by being on the fairway and hitting the greens in regulation time. I am really happy.”

Francis’ win was achieved by shooting 69 (-3), 70 (-2), and 68 (-4) on each of the three rounds on which the tournament was decided.

He was three shots clear of the field of 83 players that competed for the N10 million prize purse in the inaugural event of the Professional Golfers’ Development Tour.

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Ghana’s Vincent Torgah, who was a joint leader in the first two rounds of the event was blown apart with Epe’s composure in the closing round leaving him with 69 (-3), 70 (-2), and 71 (-1) a total of 201, six under par.

Sunday Olapade settled for third place with 212, four under par total from the event.

Wole Abegunde, group managing director of Meristem Securities, said: “We could produce top professional golfers who should be on the US PGA Tour or even the European Tour and other top players.

“We also intend getting our friends and partners to support this venture as a way to develop golf and invest in the future of our country.”

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According to the Tour organisers, at least four more events will be hosted on the stable before the 2023 golfing season ends.

Peter Akakasiaka, Nigeria’s most celebrated professional golfer who was among the guests on Saturday, urged support for the PGDT, saying Nigeria now has better players who could bring honour to the country if supported.

“This Tour project is the element that was missing in my time, despite the effort we put in, and I urge all lovers of golf to support the Tour,” he said.

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