The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has called for more private sector support for the West Africa Golf Tour (WAGT) events in order to attract more international golfers.
The minister made the call after performing the ceremonial tee-off of the 2018 WAGT Season, which began at the IBB International Golf and Country Club in Abuja with the FCT Classic.
The 2018 edition of the tour has the FCT Classic as the opening event, followed by the Eko Challenge Cup which will hold at the Lakowe Lakes Golf Club in Lagos from Wednesday to Friday.
Mohammed said a modest prize money of 100,000 dollars at least for the FCT Classic for instance would help to attract more international golfers to participate in the tournament.
He said this would help to place it at par with other tournaments in Kenya and South Africa.
“The private sector and philanthropists need to lend more support to the tournament. It is regrettable that the prize monies for the FCT Classic and the other one in Lagos are so small in comparison to what is obtainable in Kenya for example.
“They (the private sector and philanthropists) need to invest more in the sport, because sports is a powerful tool to utilise in showcasing a country.
“An increase in prize money will attract more golfers who will then help to showcase our country,’’ the minister said.
Mohammed assured of more government support for the golf tour because of its potentials to promote Nigeria’s tourism.
“It showcases Nigeria to the world, especially our golf courses, natural surroundings and cities as well as our culture, thereby putting Nigeria in the limelight and helping to advance the efforts to improve our image and economy,’’ he said.
The minister pointed out that there are lots of benefits for countries and their sports men and women in sports activities.
“That is why government and the private sector in Nigeria should not hesitate to tap into the enormous opportunities golf and sports have presented to them,’’ he said.
Welcoming the players who are in Abuja for the FCT Classic, the minister urged them not to only benefit from the competition through their talents but also go beyond this.
“You must go beyond competing and showcasing your talents, and also get closer to your opponents. This will help to further integrate people and the region West Africa,’’ he said.
Mohammed also praised the host club, IBB International Golf and Country Club in Abuja, and the tour’s organisers for putting in place measures to teach young Nigerians the sport.
“When you introduce golf to the young ones through the sport’s introduction to those at the primary schools level, you are building the sport’s future.
“Golf is one sport where it is difficult to cheat, because you need precision, determination and honesty to succeed.
“So, if the young ones imbibe the spirit of being honest from their early age through golf, we will have a better society,’’ he said.
Earlier, Mohammed had gone round the golf club’s course and watched the trio of Mark Joseph of Abuja, Robinson Chinhoi of Zimbabwe and Muazu Safiyanu play.
He was accompanied by the President of West Africa Golf Tour (WAGT), Emeka Okatta, and a former captain of the club, Hamid Abbo.
The WAGT is a Nigeria initiative dedicated to promoting and developing the game of golf in Africa.
It has been helping to hone the skills of the west African region’s golfers to raise their game to the level of counterparts from other parts of the world.
The tour, with headquarters in Abuja, organises internationally-acclaimed professional tournaments and introduces golf education programmes in schools.
The tour, which was officially launched in February of 2016 in Abuja, has staged 13 tournaments in different locations in Nigeria gathering players from 10 different countries.
This season, which is the third edition and has more than 40 players competing, has drawn participants from Ghana, Gambia, Germany, Gabon, Cameroon, Senegal, Zimbabwe and Nigeria.
The 2018 tour has 10 events lined up across Abuja, Owerri, Port Harcourt, Kaduna and Lagos.
Some of the clubs slated to host the 2018 WAGT include Arsenal Golf and Country Club in Owerri and the Port Harcourt Golf Club in Port Harcourt.(NAN)