By Jacob Ajom
The Dolphin Golf Club, Navy Town Ojo was flooded with golfers from all parts of the country. The first FOC Western Invitational Golf Tournament had just ended and golfers were returning to the club house to prepar for the grand presentation ceremony which is always the climax of every tournament.
As usual, the guests were still pouring in, while golfers who were just ending their courses were getting to shower and change for the occasion.
Among the golfers who had just concluded their games was this youthful, handsome and elegant looking gentleman. He was outstanding, not on the course though, but his dressing, mien and general attitude set him apart. He was one of the foreign golfers who took part in the tournament. I was attracted by his friendly disposition and urged on by my urge for news I went close to him. I asked that we meet. He was not the difficult type as we soon began to chat freely, like old friends.
Samba Niang is a Senegalese golfer. He is ranked number 1 in his country and was able to take part in the FOC Western Invitational because he was in Lagos for the West African Golf Tour, which had just ended in Lakowe Golf and Country Club, Ajah.
“I came here by chance, but I have enjoyed every moment of my stay here,” he told this reporter. He confessed he didn’t finish as he would have loved to but he still praised himself for putting up a commendable performance. “This was my first time, the course still new to me and overall, I didn’t do badly,” he said.
Curious to have seen the number one golf player from Senegal, the natural question that followed was, “how did you start playing golf?”
Niang, 29, smiled and said, “I was born in area near a golf course. My father played golf and even my grand father played golf. I grew up playing golf. That is how the passion for the game in me developed.”
How is the standard of golf in Senegal “ The standard of golf in Senegal is still very low. I have been number one for seven years. Compared to what you have in Nigeria, we still lag far behind,” he offered.
Niang, who spoke in fluent English said there are only three golf courses in Senegal. “We have three golf courses in the whole of Senegal. Two small one and one standard course.” He added that the entire country has about 1,000 golf players. “In Nigeria, golf is far more popular and you have numerous golf clubs and tournaments. The annual calendar is loaded and golfers are kept busy almost all year round.”
He praised the initiators of the West African Golf Tour and prayed that the initiative survived the test of time. “It is the biggest thing happening in West Africa. Our prayer is that more sponsors should come in, create more tournaments and keep the golfers moving from one golf course to another and from one country to another.”
Niang claims golf in Africa is not developing as fast fast as what obtains in Europe and Asia because “in Africa, we don’t have the same programmes like what obtains in those parts of the world. They have grassroots, youth development programmes that throw up young players every year. That makes a lot of difference between Africa and the rest of the world.”
At 29, Samba Niang who sees Tiger Woods as his role model confessed that the American golf idol was a source of motivation for him. “Woods is back!” he screamed. “Just when everybody thought he was finished, the Tiger is making a roaring return to the course. Watch out for him,” Niang added.
“I started playing golf as early as age six,” he recalled, “and I still have a long future in the game because I will play till my last breath.”