U.S. GIRLS' JUNIOR
Globetrotting Oboh Putting Nigeria on the Golf Map July 16, 2018 | Pebble Beach, Calif. By Tom Mackin

Georgia Oboh, of Nigeria, has traveled the world to play, including Poppy Hills this week for the 70th U.S. Girls' Junior. (USGA/JD Cuban)

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Make sure you have a few minutes when you ask Georgia Oboh to list all the countries where she has played golf. Morocco, Switzerland, France, Scotland, Spain and Wales are just some of the stamps found in her increasingly full passport.

Born in England to Nigerian parents, the 17-year-old currently attends high school in Florida and has traveled the world, compiling impressive results along the way. That resume includes winning the 2015 U.S. Kids World Championship at Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club in Pinehurst, N.C.

This week, Oboh’s ongoing journey stops at the 70th U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, Calif. Oboh is just the second player of Nigerian heritage to qualify for a USGA championship, joining good friend Anita Uwadia, who did not advance to match play in the 2014 U.S. Girls’ Junior at Forest Highlands Golf Club in Flagstaff, Ariz.

Golf is a family affair for Oboh, who is joined this week by her parents Godfrey and Evelyn, both of whom reside in Manchester, England. Her grandparents, Godwin and Mary are also at Poppy Hills. The latter couple traveled from Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, with Godwin serving as her caddie.

“It’s emotional because you want her to do well,” said Godwin, 75, an avid golfer and member of the Ikoyi Club 1938 in Lagos. “It’s better that I do it than her parents. They get even more emotional. I take it easy with her. I allow her to play her game.”

A condition of the competition forbids parents or guardians from caddieing in the USGA’s Junior Championships, so competitors often opt for a sibling, swing coach or friend. In this case, Oboh picked grandpa.

“He will help me to not get too down after a poor shot,” said Georgia. “That’s definitely helpful to have him tell me it’s OK, get on with it and get a par. We’re close as a family, so it’s very nice to have my parents and especially my grandparents here.”

Oboh and her two younger siblings were born in England after their parents relocated from Nigeria. “We went back to Nigeria to live for about 18 months when I was 10 years old,” she said. “It was nice going to school there and learning about my culture. Most of my family is still there.”

Her ties to Nigeria, which she last visited in February, bring a mix of pressure and pride. “I’m representing a large nation with a lot of people. But playing golf at this level means other people can hopefully follow in my footsteps. I’m very proud of my heritage.”

While golf remains well behind football (soccer) in terms of popularity, that’s slowly starting to change, according to Oboh. “There are a lot more kids playing golf, and the game will eventually grow. We don’t have that many courses (approximately 60) but we have more people involved now.”

That next generation can look toward role models such as Oboh, Uwadia, who is entering her junior year at the University of South Carolina, and Toks Pedro, who played on the men’s golf team at Rutgers University in New Jersey and is now pursuing a professional golf career.

“They’re two of the few people to break through and make a difference when it comes to golf,” said Oboh, who opened Monday's first round of stroke play with a 4-over 75. “There are a few people behind me, too. We’re trying to start women’s professional golf in Nigeria to keep things moving forward, and the Nigerian Golf Federation (founded in 1985) is pushing golf hard because of the success that myself, Anita and Toks have had. We just want that to continue.”

Oboh, who has registered holes-in-one in London, Wales, Nigeria and Florida, is doing her part by finally qualifying for the U.S. Girls’ Championship after four previous attempts. “The way the USGA runs the championship, with a player’s lounge, the Rules meetings and a reception, it’s all been fun,” she said. “Getting here has been one of my goals and I’m very happy to be here.”

“It’s a lot to take on,” said her mother. “She’s usually quite calm and doesn’t let things get to her, but she may be a little nervous this week. She wants to do well.”

Georgia Oboh's 75-year-old grandfather, Godwin, flew in from Lagos, Nigeria, to caddie this week at Poppy Hills. (USGA/JD Cuban)

This past January, Oboh moved to Riviera Beach in Florida, where she lives with an aunt and attends Matlock Academy, a small private school in West Palm Beach. “I came for the weather and the great golf facilities,” said Oboh, who works on her swing with Sherry Pla, the head professional at Sand Hill Crane Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens. “We’ve been visiting the area for the past seven years, so I’m very comfortable there.”

So much so that she is remaining in the area to consider playing in college.

“I have looked at several schools, and other schools have contacted me, which was nice,” she said. “Right now, Keiser University (in Fort Lauderdale) stands out because they have a golf and sports management program. It’s close to home, too. I like Florida, and I don’t want to go somewhere cold. It’s always been my dream to be the number one professional women’s golfer, so I’m going to work toward that goal even if I do go to college.”

Before she makes that decision, Oboh will be back on the road. She plans to play in the Florida State Women’s Open in Naples next month, the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship (with Uwadia) in the Republic of Ireland in late August, the Youth Olympic Games this October in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and an event this fall in Equatorial Guinea.

“I love to compete and I love to travel,” she said.

Arizona resident Tom Mackin is a frequent contributor to USGA websites. Email him at temackinjr@gmail.com.