Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
US golfer Charlie Wi has said that the 3e Actuaries Equatorial Guinea Open, staged in Mongomo has the profile to ensure its transition into a US PGA Tour event.
The annual national golf championship of Equatorial Guinea is organised by Nigerian businessman, Olawale Opayinka.
Wi, who is of South Korean origin, was the highest of the 60 professional golfers at the tournament, by virtue of his membership of the US PGA, Asian and European tours.
He finished in joint third with Englishman Luke Joy at seven under par, two strokes off the leaders-Peter Karmis of South Africa and Robert Follet-Smith of Zimbabwe.
In an exclusive insight with THISDAY in Mongomo, Wi said the conditions on Presidential Golf course improved this year and can be compared to the playing conditions on the US Tour.
“This course is not easy and is probably tougher than some courses on the US PGA Tour. You have to hit more straight and the greens are narrow. It is a bit demanding course and you could tell by the ladies score- 2 under for the tournament and men -9 under for the tournament, which tells how difficult the course is playing.
“And I feel like you can have a US PGA level event here now because the conditions are up to date,” summed Wi, a seven time winner on the global tours, whose best Majors finishes were a tied for 9th at the 2008 PGA Championship and T29 at the 2012 US Open.
Wi, who paired Nigerian Gift Willy in the opening round, said more African golfers can hopefully be on the US tour, if they evolve programmes and attend competitions built around South African professional golfers.
South Africa has world rated players like Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen and Ernie Els among others.
“I am not really sure I have had enough experience playing in Africa to assess African golf. I played with the Nigerian Gift Willy, though he was not at his best during the week, he is a good golfer. Someday, there will be more African golfers on the tour. There are South Africans on the tour, so I feel other Africans need to compete more with South Africans on a tour. In that way, you can get better by playing against the best players consistently,” Wi concluded.