Ever wondered when you watch TV and you see people wearing white pants and white tennis like-looking shoes hitting a round-white ball with a club? Most times confusing right? If you understand the game of golf then you’re probably one of the one percent. But if you don’t, not to worry. You’re not alone. So, to make the world have a better understanding of what happens on a golf course, Ibiene catches up with an avid golfer, Adokiye I. Ikpoki for a loaddown.
He talks about his love for the game, life principles to be learnt and surprisingly makes us understand why the impression that golf is for the rich only is a misconception.
Here’s how the conversation went;
Ibiene: You have served as captain of the Port Harcourt Golf Club for two terms. How did your love for golf start and how has the journey been?
Adokiye: My love for golf came literally from birth as I watched my dad play the game for as long as I know. I was not interested at first because I thought it was boring but I developed a liking to the game after watching video tapes of the great Seve Ballesteros win the 1984 Open championship. I actually started playing the game quite late, when I turned 16 mainly because of my parents’ emphasis on school and academics. Golf is a very time-consuming sport so it’s either you want to play professional or you wait till you can afford the time to play it as a hobby. Since I chose the latter because of the lack of financially successful role models in Nigeria, I had to wait till I was 16 and finished my secondary education before I started getting to understand the rudiments of the game. I really became serious when I had graduated from the university and then had the time.
Ibiene: What is it like being a leader among leaders especially in a sport like golf?
Adokiye: When you refer to me as a leader among leaders, I believe it’s because I was the captain of my then local and beloved golf club, Port Harcourt club 1928 golf section. The captain’s role in golf clubs is a very prestigious position among golfers anywhere in the world. The captain is among other things the administrative head of the club and head of the management committee, elected by members of the club. To answer your question as to what it is like, I will say it was and still is interesting. As much as It is like every leadership role where you have to manage all kinds of characters both good and bad with diplomacy, it meant and still means much more to me. The opportunity to impact in your small way on a sport that you love and, in the process, cultivate life-long friendships, personal and business relationships is truly priceless.
Ibiene: Unlike most other popular sports, some people find it hard to understand the game. Explain golf in the simplest of terms for Ibiene’s readers.
Adokiye: Golf is a game played over 18 holes spread over a huge piece of real estate. The objective of the game is to put the ball into the hole in fewer shots using specific clubs as tools. It is played with a lot of technique and rules guiding the activity. It is governed by rules managed internationally.
Ibiene: A few years ago, you were quoted in an online publication that “the growth of the sport had been hampered by the dearth of sponsorship” and it has been observed that sponsors go where there’s traffic. Do you think golf can become a popular game like football or will it continually be for the “selected few?”
Adokiye: When I was quoted about the dearth of sponsorship, I was referring specifically to the situation in Nigeria. Internationally, golf has become very popular especially since 1997 when Tigers Woods won his first major tournament, the US Masters. Although the sport had been quite popular in the US and Europe for a very long time, it has since transcended continents to Asia, Africa and the Middle East. There are about 40,000 golf courses in the world with most in the US and Europe. In Africa, South Africa has taken the lead with 489 courses. In Nigeria, we don’t have proper data as it is stated online that there are 11 golf courses. I know we have much more but the quality of most of the courses are not of international standard because of lack of sponsorship. The fact is that for whatever reason it is not a popular sport in Nigeria so it does not attract the requisite sponsorship for a country with our population.
Ibiene: How true is it that golf is for the rich only?
Adokiye: On the assertion that golf is for the rich. I believe that is because of the time it takes to play the game. A round of golf takes between 3 to 5 hours depending on how many you are playing on a flight. Since time as they say is money then golf is for people who can afford the time. The other issue is the cost of membership and the equipment. The cost of membership in Nigeria is one of the cheapest in the world so average people can play golf in Nigeria. This is because of what I earlier said about the lack of proper investments in course construction and maintenance. For the equipment, I don’t believe it’s expensive because a golf set that will cost $2k could last you 20 years. When you compare golf to polo, you realize that golf is not just for the rich.
Ibiene: We are told that game of golf is a jealous game that demands time, dedication and attention; we are also aware that you run a few big-time companies and ventures how are you able to combine these and yet maintain a healthy life with family, relatives and friends?
Adokiye: Golf truly is a jealous game for a number of reasons. Apart from the fact that it rewards concentration and commitment like others games, it has a lot to do with your temperament. It is among the few physical sports where ‘being in the zone’ is necessary to excel. This makes it very endearing to the analytical mind as well as anyone who loves challenges. It is a unique sport in a lot of respects. One that is most striking is that Irrespective of the fact that you are playing with and against other players, your real engagement is with the ball and your clubs under varying atmospheric elements that are part of the obstacles. Also note that it is a sport that you can also play alone since your first opponent is the course. You play very well and are encouraged to come back to play again or you play badly and are challenged to come back and do better. It is a very difficult task describing the effect golf has that makes it jealous, it is best experienced.
Ibiene: Kindly share some life principle we can learn from playing golf?
Adokiye: The truth is that you can easily get carried away with golf to the detriment of your other hobbies and indeed responsibilities. Social events are the most hit when they clash with the timing of a golf game. However, I try to manage my time between work, family, golf and squash, although I recently replaced that with lawn tennis. As I grow older, I realize that 24 hours is truly not enough. I have come to trust my colleagues and now delegate a lot of my work. I do this not because of golf but a deeper understanding of life and how to motivate people especially younger ones. I have a lot of faith in younger people and I am very impressed with their energy and commitment to deliver on tasks. I believe I am a good mentor mostly because I talk quite a bit so I share necessary information and experiences with them. As it stands now in my business, I try to handle only the strategic issues and leave all the basics for my colleagues under my guidance. I have no doubt that this style of leadership will empower them for the future.
Is there a sport you engage in that most people don’t know about? Do share with us in the comment section.