The overall best male player at the recently held one-day Daily Trust Golf Tournament at the prestigious Ibom Golf Club in Uyo, Unyime Okon, has said he dropped out of school basically to focus on his career as a golfer. In this exclusive interview, the 29-year-old amateur golfer said the only language he understands is winning as he intends to win when he embarks on an all-expenses-paid golf weekend in Kigali with 2 rounds of golf at the Premier 18-hole Kigali Golf Club.
How do you feel being the overall winner of this tournament?
I feel very happy. I am excited as this is a dream come through for me. I didn’t imagine this happening and to God be the glory, I emerged the winner.
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How long have you been playing golf?
I have been playing for over 15 years now as an amateur. With time, I hope to become a professional player.
What informed your choice of golf?
I actually started as a caddie for some years and from there I picked interest in the game. I am aspiring now to be a top professional golfer in Nigeria. Currently, I am an associate member of Ibom Icon golf course and I have played in other courses in Benin, Jos etc.
Could you share your experiences on some of the golf courses you have just mentioned?
Well, there are differences when you play in different courses. The feelings are not the same. Here in Uyo, the course is greener and wider, apart from Lakowe course, you won’t see this nature of green course elsewhere in Nigeria. Playing golf in other courses is not very easy. Uyo has one of the best courses around. It is simply breath-taking and captivating.
How many titles have you won so far as an amateur golfer?
I can’t begin to mention them because there are a lot. For example, in 2013, I won the Air Force Open, in 2017 I won the Port Harcourt amateur Open and many more. I have won a lot just to mention a few. However, I am not resting on my oars. It is not easy getting sponsorship but I will continue to push in order to attend more competition. It is for this reason that I am grateful to Daily Trust for this rare opportunity to travel to Rwanda to play golf.
Your ambition is to become a professional golfer. Apart from improving on your game, what else do you need to reach that height?
Well, you must pass through a tough process to become a professional. I have to get a coach, go for training and most importantly, dedicate a huge amount of time practising. Like it is said, practice makes perfect. I am hoping that one day a corporate organisation would accept to be my sponsor.
Apart from playing golf, what do you do for a living?
I play golf for a living. This is what I do for now and I am not complaining.
Is playing golf only as an amateur player enough to sustain you?
It has been difficult for me. You know this is a country where they don’t invest in talents. It has been challenging as a young man. I practically live on the golf course where I train daily just to get better and improve my overall self.
You will be going to Rwanda on an all-expense paid trip following your victory. You will be participating in some golf competitions over there too. What should we expect from you?
The only thing on my mind is to return to Nigeria with a trophy. That is what everyone should expect from me. The only language I understand is winning. I can’t go to Rwanda without bringing back the trophy. They should expect a lot from me. That is what I can say for now.
Did your parents support or still support your decision to play golf?
Well, they supported a little bit but you know most parents don’t support sports. Initially, they were reluctant but overtime, they accepted my decision. I will still say they encouraged me with financial assistance.
How then do you combine golf with education since this is what you do?
I dropped out of school in 2009 to play golf but I still plan to go back and further my education in the near future. I need to do that for myself and my parents.
You dream to be a professional and you just spoke on how Nigeria doesn’t invest in talents, what support have you gotten from this golf course to achieve your dreams?
First of all, let me dedicate this award to my boss, a former Super Eagles captain, Vincent Enyeama, who has supported me all along and a lot of others. I thank the management of this golf Club who have allowed me to train on this course even at midnight. They don’t stop me from accessing the course at all.
You are passionate about becoming a professional golfer. How soon do you think this will happen?
It is not going to take a long time. Once I become a pro, I will begin to think of building my own family.
There are calls for Nigeria to participate in golf at the Olympics, what needs to be done for this to happen?
What should be done is improve on support for the pros and amateur golfers in Nigeria. We have world class golfers in Nigeria but the only thing lacking is financial support. Those guys don’t play better than us. It is just the support they have that separates them from us. If we have the support, the world will hear about Nigerian golfers.