The Captain of the Ibori Golf and Country Club, ESV Jimi Odogwu, has said unlike what was obtainable when the game of golf debuted in Nigeria, women are now showing more interest in the sport than their male counterparts. In this interview with Trust Sports, the golf enthusiast spoke on the health benefits for those who play golf, what is required to be a golfer and why the Golf Federation of Nigeria (GFN) must encourage catch-them young programmes.
What would you say are the health benefits of the game of golf?
There are so many. Golf is a special sport because it is a gentle exercise that filters deep into one’s system and it is the only game that you play in nature. I mean in the environment where you play the game. It gives one good mental exercise, helps to keep body fitness and reveals the humanness of the player before others. If the player is erratic and cheats, it will show on the golf course. And it is a game you play against the course, not against your opponent. So, golf is an interesting sport.
Most people believe golf is an elitist sport. Would you say it for every interested person?
Golf is for everybody. The notion that people used to have that it is made for the elites are not true. It is made for everybody no matter your age. In my club here, we have a man that is 90-years old. He is still playing and he does not make use of a cart. And another interesting thing about golf is that even if one is physically challenged, maybe the person cannot walk well. If you go with a cart, you will still play golf.
What are the major challenges faced by those who are into golf?
The small challenge we have is to acquire the training kits. It is not like football where you just get your boots and jerseys. Most of the things or equipment you need to play golf are expensive.
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Why are some golf courses bigger than others?
It depends on the size of golf course you want to have. For instance, in Warri and Benin, they have 18 holes, but some holes you play them twice. But for our (Ibori) own golf and country club, it is a straight 18 holes. So, it is quite big and large. It is just like Lakowe. It is like smoking Hill as well. It depends on the size you want to go with.
Could you estimate the amount of money that is required to build a golf course?
Let me tell you the truth, it depends on the location where you want to site it. If it is a hilly place where you have to crack rocks, where there is no water, it is going to cost you more. But if it is like the environment here, you just clear the bush, level the ground and take the type of topography you want and do a borehole. Here it was very easy for us. That is why some golf courses are green and brown, which means sand. They don’t have green holes but here because of the nature of the environment we can get water. So, the cost of building a golf course varies.
Is maintaining a golf course easily affordable?
The maintenance is another thing. It takes a huge amount of money to maintain a golf course. So, I can say building a course is one thing and maintaining it is another. When it is not well maintained, it loses its glamour and aura.
Is Ibori Golf Club planning to accommodate other sports?
The government just mapped this place for golfing. A golf and country club means other sporting activities are supposed to be taking place here but we are yet to establish them. We will have a tennis court and basketball court as is done in other reputable clubs.
What is your assessment of the growth of golf in Nigeria?
In Nigeria, more people are embracing the game and that was why we had the National Youth Games. This youth game is specifically to develop future champions. Some people don’t want to go on the street to jog because of the risk involved in street jogging like inhaling the fumes along the road because they are hazardous to their health. So, they prefer to come here, hit the ball, walk some kilometres as they chase the ball. More people are now into golf.
How did you begin to play golf?
I became interested in golfing when I was young. I noticed I could not do football or track and field. So, at Ikeja Golf club, I started as a caddie and since then I have been enjoying it and that is what is keeping me going.
What does it take to be a good golfer?
Golf requires good training. This is supposed to be for at least three months. You must have your golf kits, club, bag, tees, biro, glove, cap, markers, special golf shoes, napkins to dry your sweat. With these basic kits, you can start playing the game of golf.
What advice do you have for the Nigeria Golf Federation?
I will advise Nigeria Golf Federation (NGF), to continue to encourage the younger ones, create a very proper academy so that we will be able to catch them young and create future champions that will represent the country at international level. This is how the famous Tiger Woods started, just from a very small age. He started like this along with his father. The federation should try to organise more tournaments for the young ones.
Is golf male-dominated and how satisfied are you with Nigerian women’s participation in the sport?
Golf is not male dominated. In fact, our women are embracing golf more than men. We have ladies golf sections in every club. They have their own association nationwide. They organise tournaments among themselves and men take part in their tournaments as well.