Features

For the love of golf

Nofiu Akano moved from Nigeria to the U.S. to follow his passion.
San Juan Oaks golf course was designed by Fred Couples. Photo by Becky Bonner.

Nofiu Akano was 13 years old the first time he stepped into the world of golf in 1995. Born and raised in Nigeria, he spent his early years playing soccer. This would all change when a family friend at one of his parents’ rental properties invited him to play golf.

The pair arrived at the course only to find it being used for a tournament. Akano was able to explore the course by becoming a caddy for the event.

“Everywhere was so beautiful and serene,” Akano said. “At the end of the day it was a wonderful experience.”

As a young adult, Akano developed his skill and passion for golf while he navigated multiple professions and attended college.

In 2014, he moved to the U.S. to pursue golf as a career.

“Golf is the best therapy,” Akano said. “If everything is hard on me, or I’m lost, I find myself on the golf course. When I go on the golf course I feel relaxed and get myself back.”

After moving to the states, Akano found himself working in California and became a member of the Salinas Fairways Golf Course. It was there that the golf pro on-site suggested that if Akano was serious about pursuing a golf career, he should work at a golf club to have greater access.

Taking the advice to heart, Akano applied to work at the Ridgemark Golf Club and Resort in Hollister. At the time, golf professional Bruce Lewis was leaving, so there was an opening at the club. 

Starting his career at Ridgemark in June 2017, Akano stayed there until May of this year,  when he accepted an offer from Manny Frietas to work at San Juan Oaks Golf Club.

Akano is now the PGA assistant golf professional at San Juan Oaks. Mike Jansen is the club’s head golf professional.

Akano said the local golf scene and the community have both grown on him.

“I love San Benito County,” he said. “It is calm. There are wonderful people. There is a mix of that rural and urban feel. People in the city keep their eyes up, but people in San Benito County look each other in the eyes.”

Moving forward, Akano hopes to one day be a professional golfer on the PGA Tour.

“I’m still pursuing my playing career. That is my dream. We don’t have any Nigerians on the PGA Tour.”

Akano currently belongs to the Monterey Bay chapter of the Northern California PGA and is the first Nigerian to become a PGA associate member in the U.S.

He hopes to give back to his home country the way other professional golfers have done, such as Gary Player of South Africa.

“My ultimate goal is to give back to the community and engage young kids and talent,” Akano said. “You don’t know, they may be the next champion.”

Reflecting on his past and looking to become part of the PGA Tour, Akano said, “You just have to have someone set the pace. The journey has not been a smooth ride, but it’s worth the sacrifice.” 

 

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Becky Bonner

Becky Bonner is a local teacher at San Benito High School who is passionate about sharing things to do in San Benito County.