April 17, 2021

Andrew Odoh: Playing European Tour is a challenging experience

Engineer Francis Olo recently retired from the DPR. His retirement coincided with his 60th birthday. He marked the twin event with a golf competition which was held at the Dolphin Golf Club, Navy Town, Lagos. The tournament attracted some of the best golfers in the country including Nigeria’s number one golf player, Andrew Oche Odoh. Sports Vanguard attended the event and chatted with the host, the Assistant Captain of the club and Odoh who has broken into the European Tour.

As Nigeria’s number one golf player, what are you doing here?

I am here to honour my very good friend, father Engineer Francis Olo on his retirement Kitty. The first Nigerian that played in the European Tour is Christian Godfrey in 2005 who played in the Omega Rolex Masters in Switzerland.

For me, getting to play in two European events which is the Magical Kenya Open and the Kenya Savannah Classic was a completely different experience as I flew the flag of my country, but then, there is still a lot of work to be done. I have played the two events already, it wasn’t great but I take a lot of positives to move forward.

Where do you see yourself in the next one year?

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The major goal here is to continue to soar high, continue to work hard and move my game in the right direction. That, of course, is what I am doing at the moment. Yet that comes with a whole lot of challenges. My goal actually is to go out there, play more events in the Sunshine Tour which, of course, I am eligible to play in because I am an affiliate member of the Sunshine Tour at the moment. The major goal is to go out there and improve my world rankings and see how I can get myself more events to play. The Sunshine Tour has a lot of tournaments that are of world ranking standard and also they got co-sanction events on both European and the European Challenge Tour. Mine is to try and get there, play myself into bigger events and then from there we can take it to the next level.

How has it been for you playing in the European Tour?

I played just two tournaments a couple of weeks ago. It was a very difficult task because the standard of play is very high. One of the major challenges is financing to go and play those games. In this part of the world, it is very difficult to get sponsorship because the right programmes are not in place. It is obviously an opportunity to appeal to the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, corporate bodies and well-to-do individuals to start supporting the game of golf. We need to start improving our way of support for the game of golf and most importantly sports generally.

What are your thoughts on golf in the country?

Engineer Francis Oloh:

I sponsored the event because I am marking my retirement from public service and also I was sixty years a few months ago.

We need the private sector, not just government and good spirited individuals to come together and form a very strong Nigerian PGA to forge ahead. We have commitments from individuals and the government, I think the sky would be our limit.

Right from primary school, I have been a sports person. After my graduation, I went into Squash. I played Squash extensively. Squash is one of the most strenuous games in the world and as you are ageing, it is not too healthy. That is why I ventured into golf and it has been so excellent somehow that I

represented Nigeria at the 2007 World Golfers Championships in Malaysia, where I came third. Golf is life. It was a great experience. I was winning until the last hole, hole 18 when I got into the bunker and I couldn’t come out three times and that was how others overtook me. Anyway, it was a good experience. Over 45 countries all over the world attended the championship and we were five Nigerians that represented the country. Coming third in a competition is not bad.

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We thank God for the life of Engineer Francis Adakole Olo. He has served Nigeria with the DPR and is graciously retired and felt he should celebrate is get

Babatunde Ajayi :

We thank We thank God for the life of Engineer Francis Olo. I felt it was necessary for him to host us as the past captain of this club and to encourage golfers to grow. Even the Caddies were not left out because they also took their turn on the course as they had their tournament yesterday(Friday). He has been a supporter of golf both here and nationally. He is a prominent figure in the golf community in Nigeria and has been of tremendous help to golfers in the country.

As it is now, considering our peculiarities and our rules, we are having more than 60 amateurs and 15 professionals we invited to grace the occasion.

And what does the presence of Nigeria’s number one golfer mean to the club?

Andrew Oche has been a friend of this club and somebody every club member would love to see make Nigeria proud and despite the constraints, he has been doing good. I am using this opportunity to call on the PGN, Golf Federation of Nigeria and indeed the Ministry of Sports to galvanise the system, to bring together our best. If there is any problem, it should be eliminated because Nigeria Golf should be flying our flag all around the world.

Happily, Oche has broken into the European Tour. A few weeks ago, he competed in two events. He did that on his own and we want more people to make such progress. In the far past, we had Peter Akakasiaka, when Nigerian Golf was so attractive that many European Golf players always looked forward to coming and playing. We lost it, where South Africa and Kenya have left us behind. We need to organise ourselves. We need corporate bodies. In fairness, they were doing it before. I don’t know why they left. But whatever might have happened that made them leave should be resolved so they can come back and help this game to grow.

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