The former Captain of the IBB Golf and Country Club Abuja, Professor Bola Afolabi, in the interview with OLAWALE AYENI, states the need why all stakeholders must collaborate towards developing the game of golf in Nigeria.
How would you rate the development of golf in Nigeria compared to that of the western countries?
Nigerian Professional golfers don’t get enough competitions to show their capabilities, they play within Nigeria and they go within the west African and the African region, but they are not yet ready to play at that international level, because it takes more than knowing how to strike a ball.
It takes a lot of psychological maturity to be an excellent golfer and that is the missing link in our level of play to that of what is obtainable in the western world.
The game is not mature yet in Nigeria, looking at the kind of tournament, the number of tournaments, sponsorship and the awareness of the game. A lot of golfers have put in effort to improve the game with their own little resources.
How best can Nigeria develop the game at the grassroots
We can do this by educating the children, there is nothing wrong in adding the sport to the extra curricular activities in school and you may not need a full golf course with the football pitch, you can create a driving range, where students can take basic lessons and fundamentals about the game. In this form we catch them young.
The sports ministry can ensure that every local government has a golf course this will further aid the development of the game.
The best golfer in the world is Tiger Woods this young man changed the narrative of golf because his parents introduced him to the game at age two.
So golf is best played when you’re young, because the younger you are the better you will be at playing golf.
During my stint as the captain of the IBB club in 2010-2011 we hosted the President cup during the Nigeria@50 celebrations , during that time we achieved a lot, which our focus was to develop young people in golf because we where looking at taking some players to represent Nigeria at the Olympic Games.
We did clinic for our young talents and also our ladies aspect too was not left behind in developing young stars.
If we really want to up our stance in the game of golf and one day hope to be amongst the world best then we have to strive to do what is done in other climes.
In Scotland where I spent many years, it will take you about 15 years to join a golf club before you could play the game.
Children were even registered by their patients before their birth so that they can play and then there is the availability of golf courses in the country.
In America, in a radius of 10miles you have over 50 golf courses while in Nigeria if we have a golf course in a state then we are lucky.
But some states in Nigeria are doing well, for example Rivers state has about four golf courses and FCT Golf Association are trying to develop the sports under the leadership of Engr Oladapo Mohammed, they are doing a fantastic job trying to promote the game in schools and to build a golf courses in Abuja.
The society looks at the game of golf for the elite alone, how would you react to this?
This stereotype is due to the racket of resources involved.
Because of the few golf courses in Nigeria, membership into clubs are expensive in quote to the common man, because you have to belong to a club before you can play, whereas in football you can kick the ball round.
The equipment are expensive because you need about #300,000 to get a semi average equipment for the game.
Every time you play golf you have to pay for greenfield, caddies and there are some other expenditures you have to pay any time you have to play, so it’s in that context people say golf is made for the elite and not for the common man .
But in advance countries, government construct community golf courses which makes it very cheap for everyone to play the game. Because to maintain the course it not an easy task.
Tell about your earlier days playing the game of golf
I picked up playing golf at age 38 , I started playing at handicap five, l won a lot of trophies, I have been captain of two clubs, that’s in Abuja and Port harcourt, I have worked in various capacities in which I have introduced and aided the development of the game in Nigeria.
How has the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic impacted the game of golf?
Horrible impact to the game, the coming of COVID-19 has dealt a big blow, because ordinarily golfers will not allow any opportunities go by without playing.
It is often said that golf is the first spouse of every golfer, because it a jealous game, that is how much we love the game .
Because when we finally return to the courses most golfers will have to renew their handicap, also rebuild their playing.
The pandemic has also affected us healthwise, don’t forget that it is an exercise which is good for the heart, and keeping this players off course for a long while is detrimental to their health.
It is also saddening that we lost some of our members to the pandemic.
Also the economical impact on the players and the caddie, this also hinders the grounds for social interaction. You must know that many deals are brokered on the course and you can ascertain a person’s character or persona in the way he or she plays.
What future do you envision for the Nigeria golf sector?
The future of Nigeria golf is bright because the coming of technologies has really opened the game, people can receive messages about the game on their phones and watch on television. A tournament is happening in Florida now and people in Nigeria can participate, so that has helped tremendously and it will help the future of golf and i believe if there’s a lot of awareness and sponsorship the future is bright.
What are your advice for prospective golfers
The game of golf is indeed an interesting one, it’s a game that develops a person, it offers both physical and mental benefits, and presents you certain opportunities through its means of social interaction where you meet with the highest people in the society because they play the game so you get chance to meet great people.
On the negative side because everything has it good and bad sides, I must warn you severely consider it before you play golf, because once you start playing, you will find it very difficult to leave it .
Do you have your own golf tournament you sponsor?
December 15 every year i do have my tournament and I use to sponsor the No Took Honor tournament, it is actually to appreciate people who don’t take honor in the course of the year ,they are selected just to encourage them. Also I will continue to support the game.
I want to use this opportunity to call on the media to continue to educate the people and to promote the game of golf.