Nigeria’s 'Queen of Golf' Helps Others Learn the Game

29 July, 2017

About 30 young people gathered on a golf course in the Nigerian capital Abuja recently on a hot Saturday morning to practice their swing.

The students were as young as three and as old as 16. For almost a year they have gathered every Saturday at the IBB International Golf and Country Club to learn the rules of the sport.

Their teacher is Uloma Mbuko. "Princess, I want to see you hold your swing," she said to one of them.

Mbuko is the top female golfer in Nigeria. She has competed across Africa. She has won about 200 awards. Some people call her the Queen of Golf in Africa. She has played at the highest level of the sport in Africa for 17 years. Few women golfers in Nigeria have reached the Class A level.

Chinyere Mbuko is Uloma's sister. She says Uloma was always ambitious.

"She's always been a sports lady. She started with football, then handball. So when she said she was starting, you know, playing golf, I was like ‘Ah! Serious?"

Uloma Mbuko's family was not wealthy, and golf can be a costly sport to play.

"We all know that golf is expensive, even though we try to shy away from it. But it is expensive," Uloma Mbuko said. "Now, to be a member of a golf club in Nigeria, definitely you're talking about nothing less than 500,000" naira. That is about $1,640.

Mbuko notes that the amount pays only for membership in a golf club. At the IBB club where Mbuko spends most of her time, the membership costs as much as $2,622.

And a golfer must pay more money for training, a caddy, clothing, equipment, and to use the club.

Some professional Nigerian golfers, like Mbuko, are trying to help young people pay for the cost of playing the sport.

Emeka Okatta is the president and founder of the West Africa Golf Tour. He said the government should help make golf more affordable.

"For you to walk in here just to have green(s) fees is 10,000 naira (or $32). That's a lot of money. That's probably some peoples' salary in a month," Okatta said. "But in other parts of the world, the government provides public golf courses, public drive ranges; but here there's none and so a common man cannot play. That's why it's called a rich man's game."

Okatta founded the West Africa Golf Tour to give young people more chances to play. He said he is looking forward to working with Mbuko's Ladies Professional Golfers Association of Nigeria to organize tournaments.

Mbuko has decided to play in fewer tournaments so that she can help train other Nigerian women to become good golfers. She and the women she trains meet several days a week.

Stella Kadiri and Obiageli Ayodele are being trained by Mbuko. They said they hope to become professionals.

"I'm here Monday to Friday. I've been playing golf since 2011," the 25-year-old Kadiri said. "I've been going to Ladies' Open, different places, and I've been winning. When I see my medal, it inspires me to play more."

The 29-year-old Obiageli Ayodele is one of the few female players whose husband supports her golf training.

"In our country, Nigeria, they find it difficult for the ladies to get into sports because of their husbands -- I mean the ones that are married. They don't want their wives to be out there. They don't want them to be in the midst of other men. They feel they will not properly take care of their home," Ayodele said.

Mbuko said she wanted to see her students playing internationally in the next three years.

"Yes, we are ladies, yes, we are African, but we have what it takes, we have the talent. I want to sit down and watch television and see Nigerian ladies competing in ladies' Masters and like, ‘Oh yeah, this is my girl, this is my girl.'"

I'm John Russell.

Chika Oduah reported this story from Abuja. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted the report for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

swing – n. an act of moving something with a quick, sweeping motion; an act of swinging a bat, fist, etc.

expensive – adj. costing a lot of money

caddy – n. a person who carries a golfer's clubs on the golf course

afford – v. to be able to pay for (something)

greens fees – n. a cost golfers pay to play on a golf course

salary – n. an amount of money that an employee is paid each year

range – n. a place where people can practice hitting golf balls

medal – n. a piece of metal, often in the form of a coin with designs and words in honor of a special event, a person or an achievement

inspire – v. to make (someone) want to do something; to give (someone) an idea about what to do or create