It's still my dream to break into European, PGA Tours, says Odoh
Andrew Oche Odoh is Nigeria’s number one ranked player. The IBB Golf and Country Club Abuja-based star, who says he is not satisfied with his 2086 world ranking, has been striving hard to move his game to the highest level.
Odeh is currently playing in South Africa’s Sunshine Tour, where he is one of the top African stars in the tour that attracts players from across the world.
Ranked 61 on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, Odeh says his next step is the European Tour, where he believes his ability would be better appreciated. But to get to that level, he confesses that he needs support from corporate Nigeria and the PGA of Nigeria, which, he acknowledges, has been striving hard to reinvent the game in the country.
Odeh told The Guardian after his recent induction into the PGAN Hall of Fame that the Nigerian game has been hampered by a lot of issues, including lack of competitions, poor developmental programmes and government’s apathy to its development. But he agrees that the future looks bright for the game in Nigeria.
“I want to congratulate the PGAN for keeping professional golf alive in Nigeria for 50 years. Without the PGAN, we will not be known at any level in the game because they are the only ones that can accord that recognition to any professional golfer.
“Though I think, we are not where we are supposed to be, it is good to know we are moving in the right direction and focusing on making more progress.”
Odeh confesses that he has always dreamt of playing among the top stars of the world, adding, “I am still working hard to break into the European and PGA Tours.
“If I had the opportunity to play at the Sunshine Tour more frequently, I will have the chance to break into one of the big leagues.
“As it is, the game can only make progress, if we actually have people who will support us to go out there and compete. That is the only way, we can make that happen.”
Odeh laments that golf has not been developing at the right pace because the Nigerian Golf Federation (NGF) has failed to build the players, adding that the federation has to change its ways of developing the game.
He adds: “I don’t think they are doing enough right now. Every other golf nation doing well owes its success to the good golf development programmes set up by its federation.
“It is not done by the PGA. The PGA is to develop young golfers and help professionals grow in the game. But the task of getting the young golfers rests with the NGF.
“They need to come up with proper development plans that can stand the test of time. That is the only way because at the moment there is no clear cut development plan for the game in Nigeria.
“I remember Nigeria went for the Africa Games recently and the South Africans who won that event were about 16 and 17 years olds. But they beat second-placed Zimbabwe with more than 80 shots.
“These guys actually plotted their way from the beginning. They didn’t just pick boys randomly as we do here in Nigeria. The NGF just wakes up one morning and says, we have this information that there is a competition and then picks people randomly to represent the country.
“That is not how it is done. You must set up a programme, work with the PGA of Nigeria, get a national golfing coach or probably some national coaches, who will work on a proper development programme for the young kids and develop them from there.
“That way, if we had a tour for the professionals, these kids will be looking up to the professionals. It is just like the Nigeria Football Federation, which has the NPFL for professionals. That league is what the younger kids are looking up to and after that, they look at the Premier League and other bigger leagues. But in our own case, we don’t have a standing professional tour.”
He tasks the NGF leadership to plot a development path and find a way of getting the government to buy into it.
“The NGF needs to speak to the government because they are the government recognised body for golf. They also need to speak to corporate Nigeria so that people can support Nigerian golf. That is the only way we can make progress.”