The emergence of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has ground all human activities the world over. Sport, which is one of the activities that bring together a large number of people in one venue, seems to be the worst hit as major championships have been cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic.
In Nigeria, COVID-19 has seen to the suspension of all the sports activities lined up for the year, including major golf competitions. With nothing else to do except working to keep fit while observing the stay at home order by the government, players and officials, who now have ‘more unneeded time’ on their hands, say the situation is not funny.
Although the lockdown nationwide lockdown has given the golfers the time to be with their families, some say they would rather be at the various courses plying their trade than stay at home doing nothing else. Some also say the pandemic has given the golfers the opportunity for reflection and self-assessment, which would come handy when all is over.
A former Professional Golfers Association (PGA) of Nigeria Director, Tony Uduimoh, is one of those who believe COVID-19 has come with many lessons for professional golfers in Nigeria.
“The Coronavirus is not the decease anybody envisaged would take this dimension at all; it has crippled the entire world in all human endeavours – businesses in sports, entertainment is shut down; even health and education are finding it difficult to cope – schools are been closed down.
“What this means for the professional golfers in Nigeria is that they will now have to cut their coat according to their cloth and not the size; this because they feed from the game and for now there will be no games at all; what then happens? They will now begin to learn a new way of life – I’m talking about survival,” he said.
Uduimoh, a legend of the PGA Nigeria lamented that the financial weakness of the Nigerian professionals has been the major bane of their commensurate progress over time – a development he said has slowed down the development of the game in Nigeria.
Another legendary Nigerian golfer, Peter Akakasiaka, suggests a concerted effort by all stakeholders to ensure Nigerian professionals get a living wage from the game as the players also must be strong.
“I feel for Nigerian professionals at a time like this that the world is down with a plague that knows no status; as a professional in sport, it means you feed from what you are doing – the works of your hand, your career. But from the look of things now, it will be extremely be difficult for them to cope because they don’t play enough tournaments; which means they cannot earn much to take care of their needs.
“A situation where the professionals barely play up to six tournaments in a year calls for worry. Right now all the PGA Nigeria events for this year may never take place again as the Coronavirus is spreading on daily basis like wild fire and there is no known cure for it yet.
“I think the stakeholders will have to use this opportunity to review the tournaments that are been organised in Nigeria; these players have to take care of themselves and their families – but how is that going to work when they will be idle at home for so long a time.
“But I will also keep encouraging all the PGA of Nigeria players to be strong, focused and committed to their game; it is not a hopeless situation; we all need to stay safe and be alive to continue in the game,” Akakasiaka said. Nigeria’s highest ranked player, Oche Odoh, who recently won a tournament in Uganda, is arguably the most travelled professional golfer in the country.
The player, who shuttles between Nigeria and South Africa, has a line-up of tournaments in the Sunshine Tour series. But the situation has changed. Odoh, who confessed the situation has not been pleasant with him in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), where he is based with the family, agrees, “This is a very trying time for me.
“All the programmes have been distorted, but one will have to brace up for the challenges of the times.” Odoh, who has 41 trophies in his trophy chest, which is the highest ever by any of the country’s professionals, believes COVID-19 is an opportunity for Nigerian professionals to put themselves together and move forward.
“It is really a difficult time I must say; all the clubs are shutdown, nowhere to train, what is more – we just have to come together and to help each other; this is the time to show love amongst ourselves to move on, because we have to stay safe to be alive to continue playing golf,” Odoh said.