Otunba Olusegun Runsewe and a golf instructor at Tiger Woods Learning Centre, Anaheim, California
By Olawale Ajimotokan
Golf in Nigeria is set for a huge lift after the Director-General of the Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, reached an understanding with the Professional Golfers Association of America Tour (PGA Tour) to promote and develop the game in Nigeria.
The agreement was signed during Runsewe’s recent visit to the PGA America head office in Ponte Vedra Beach in Florida.
The PGA Tour of America will assist in promoting golf tourism in Nigeria and bridge the gap between professional golf in the country and the developed world.
The PGA Tour of America is a body of professional golfers established to elevate the standards of the profession and grow interest and participation in the game of golf all over the world. NTDC is in the forefront of driving golf in Nigeria.
In May, Runsewe announced the commitment of the tourism corporation to develop golf at the grassroots by building putting greens in six schools in six geo-political zones across the country.
But the latest pact brokered with the PGA America is strategic as it will deepen professional golf in Nigeria and aid Nigerian players in navigating their ways into the mainstream of international golf tours.
Some Nigerian professional golfers will also directly benefit under the partnership as they are to be selected for special training to enhance their capacity.
The agreement with NTDC was signed with some key directors of the PGA Tour, including Brian Woyt; the Tours Director of Branding Marketing, Carlton Kitchens; Director of Business Development and Dan Glod; Vice President Business Development in attendance.
Runsewe disclosed to THISDAY that the inspiration to strike the alliance with the PGA America stemmed out of his conviction that there is a strong ties between tourism and the game of golf.
“I have seen the huge returns that golf has brought for my colleagues elsewhere in the world. The tourism industry through the channels of golf has earned more than $70 billion dollars. We need to position Nigeria to tap from it. We have the players and the will. There are tremendous facilities that will compliment this. We only have to work out and activate some essential aspects of the industry,” Runsewe said.
He said he was concerned that despite a pool of talented players, no Nigerian professional golfer has featured in a world ranking point event in close to two years, while no local player is ranked in the Official World Ranking for the professionals.
He said that the pact between NTDC and PGA America would also help Nigeria to be in position to get a comfortable spot for Rio 2016 when golf is expected to make a return to the Olympic Games.
“As for now, the next Olympics that would be in Rio, Brazil will feature golf and that is a wonderful platform to get funding for the game’s development and more importantly to attract the world attention to the level of development here.
"Since the qualifying countries will be chosen by world ranking, we will not be doing ourselves any good if we keep our best professionals locked outside of top Tours," he said.