Iyeneobong or “Iyene” Essien is planning on “taking the world of golf by storm” and is working hard at every opportunity to achieve that goal.
The 13-year-old Nigerian golfer who currently holds the number one ranking in Nigeria’s junior golf circuit, developed a passion for the sport at the age of five while watching a boy playing the game at Abuja’s popular IBB Golf Club.
She wanted the boy’s clubs but her father bought Essien her own set and also arranged for a coach.
Still at the age of five, she attended her first tournament, won a medal, and it has been a roller coaster ride for her since then.
Essien says she loves the game because it has also taught her about self-reliance and accountability.
“In this game you compete against yourself and not other players which is very exciting, since you compete against yourself and not other people even though your caddy is caddying for you it is still your mistake, you are the one playing so you cannot blame your caddy or anyone for the mistake you made,” she told Reuters.
Essien was the only teenage golfer to participate at the recently held 2019 Nigeria Ladies Golf Open Championship in the capital Abuja where she came 10th out of 177 golfers that took part.
In eight years, Essien has represented Nigeria 11 times across Europe, Africa and the United States of America. She has a total number of 17 medals to show for it.
Essien practices only at weekends and says it is challenging combining studying and her hobby.
But her supportive parents are always with her during practice and tournaments, and her father often doubles up as her caddy.
“She still has some room for growth and I think as I said by the age of 15 she will be ripe you know to take the golf world by storm,” adds her father, Eyo Essien, who is a consultant economist.
Essien has already attended the IMG Golf Academy in Florida, but said she has other interests that she plans to pursue concurrently with a golf career.
“I will study artificial intelligence aerobotics. I will combine my studies with playing in the university golf team. In the next ten years with a degree in my hand, I will play as a professional golfer,” she said.
Essien hopes to one day invest in making sure kids from poor homes are also given the chance to develop their love for golf.
For now, she’s working on delivering her country’s first gold medal for golf at the 2022 Summer Youth Olympics in Dakar, Senegal.