The Captain of IBB International Golf and Country Club of Abuja, Shola Awoyungbo in this interview with Olawale Ayeni states that golf development in any country is the reflection of the nation’s economy.
Tell us about the development of golf at the IBB golf club under your watch?
We came on board April in 2019, I should have handed over to the next captain but due to COVID-19 pandemic the board of trustees decided that we should continue our tenure till next year April.
We have achieved a lot in some many areas, we have an 18 holes course which is rated among the best in Africa and maintaining the course is very challenging because we are sitting on a 100 hectare of land, in which we suffer from flooding during the raining season.
Ensuring that the course is in a good shape is the biggest challenge which is quite expensive to maintain, when I came on board our nursing was not in good shape, we built about seven new greens also the water ways were drenched.
Drenching of the golf course, cost us N40m this year, which was able to prevent flooding on the course due to rainfall, that tells that a lot is required to maintain a golf course.
In the past we would down the golf course due to flooding but after drenching we have been able to continue playing the game despite heavy rains.
We have been able to upgrade the locker rooms for both the men and ladies; we have improved security around the golf club.
Also we have completed an electronic control access, when we commission the project, every member will be expected to be carrying a smart card which means, I can’t have access to the golf clubs without an access, these will boost our security and enhance our revenue drive.
We have been able to develop a mobile app for the club, members can interact with one and another, which is the first in Africa. The app will help the members in various ways related to the golf course.
Before now, our members were paying peanut compared to what other members pay in countries like South Africa, Japan and the US, we were able to increase the membership fee at the IBB golf club, which was welcomed by the members and it has further helped boost the development of the club.
We also cut down cost because in management you must be a able to manage men, resources and materials.
Some of our workforces are aged so those who were due for retirement were paid off and they retired.
So we are doing well when it comes to finance.
What has been the level of development in terms of talents discovery?
We do have some professionals who are members of the club that help teach people who want to learn the game, but those who want to be a professional do not come under the club, they stand on their own.
But we do have developmental programmes which we focus on the children where we catch them young through our clinic program where we teach them about the fundamentals which is under the ladies section.
How best can we make golf a household name like football in Nigeria?
Golf is quite elitist and not so affordable for the common man, because the equipment and the facilities are expensive, taking table tennis and football for example, one can easily buy football and play on the street which is not the same with golf.
But golf needs a wide space of land and money to fund it to be a proper course. Our of 45,000 courses in the world United States account for 20 per cent, about 15,000 courses in the world, Scotland is the home of golf because they started it, before we can mention Japan, Germany and the rest. because the rich countries do well in the sports. It would suffice to say that, it is the reflection of the economy of the country.
In Nigeria the total number of golf course we have is 56 which’ is nothing compared to South Africa, of which in Johannesburg alone they have about 40 golf courses.
The history of golf development in Nigeria began with the military, because the IBB golf was built during the Ibrahim Babangida whereas you can also find golf courses in some military base areas in the country.
Golf works hand in hand with tourism and business, like the hotels, food vendors, caddie, all these boost the economy of a nation, so government must be ready to make a long time investment.
How did you start playing golf?
I retired from the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2015, but before I retired we were asked to join a social club which I picked golf and joined the IBB golf club in 2003 and ever since then I have enjoyed playing the game as an amateur.
The regret that we have is that, we were introduced to the game quite late, but it is better later than never I have been in the scene for 20years now.
Beside the health benefits they are the social aspects where you meet highly connected people, captains of industries.
What footprints do you want to leave behind at the end of your tenure as the IBB golf captain?
I want to leave a club that is healthy in terms of finance and also the courses are in good condition.
Also members who are happy, who see themselves as a single family, because majority of the members sees the club as their second home as a member spends an average of eight hours on the course.