A Goal in One
By Howard Quintanilla, Eric Butler, Josh Vellucci & Matt Cather
The Darius Rucker Invitational is coming up in a couple of weeks. It’s one of the biggest games scheduled for the 19-year old freshman Anita Uwadia. Anita is one of the rising stars of the South Carolina Women’s Golf team and for her, Hilton Head is where it all started. It’s where she first lived when she came to the United States. Going back once more, when she tees up at the start of the game, she will be reminded of how far she‘s come in her journey.
For many of us, home is only a few miles away. We may not all be from the same state, but at least from the same country. When Anita left Nigeria at the age of 13, she had figured out early on that she wanted to play golf professionally and the only way to do that was to come to the United States.
Growing up in Nigeria, Uwadia was a “tomboy” and loved to play sports with her friends and older brother, Charles. When he picked up a set of golf clubs, Anita was sure to follow. As a nine-year-old, she realized she had talent, so she began to train and take lessons at the Nigerian Golf Academy. The academy was a wonderful opportunity for her to get better, but it was a small clinic and her access to courses in Nigeria were limited. To put it in perspective, there are 477 golf courses in South Carolina. There are only 40 in Nigeria. It was evident that if she wanted to make a serious run at a career in golf, she would have to leave Nigeria.
Training every Saturday, Uwadia began to develop her game as well as a passion for golf. When one of the boys she trained with, Toks Pedro, disappeared on day she asked her father where he went, and he told her the United States. Pedro had gone to the United States to pursue a career in golf. Pedro now plays for the Rutgers University men’s golf team. This was a turning point for Uwadia because she realized that her dreams could become a reality. She also had to make the biggest decision of her life: leave her family and friends to move to another country. She packed her bags and said goodbye to Nigera; Her next stop would be The Hilton Head Preparatory Academy.
According to her coach, Kalen Anderson, when Uwadia first arrived in Hilton Head she was full of raw talent, but her game needed some adjusting.
“She has incredible speed, power and length. Anita has natural ability that cannot be taught, and I am extremely excited help her develop her scoring and mental game. Anita has the ability to accomplish great things throughout her collegiate career and beyond."
Since she came to the United States, Uwadia has dropped her average score by twenty shots. This meant Uwadia had a lot of success on the golf course, by competing in tournaments here and in Africa. Enough so that she would soon gain the attention of the University of South Carolina. Her hard work would soon pay off, but her journey had just started.
Things didn’t seemed easy for the star player. Starring at the outside, anyone would say she’s a talented young star, playing at one of the top universities in the country. Even in her victories and she realized it just wasn’t enough. One of the hardest things for her was adjusting to the United States. Her adjustment was a tough one. Living in a new place, took a toll on Anita. Leaving her friends and her old life back in Nigeria was rough, but the hardest part for her was leaving her family. She was home sick.
“I think for two months or three months, I was in my room the entire time crying.”
As time went by, Uwadia slowly began to adjust to life away from home. Uwadia was able to settle in by making new friends. Her golf team was a really good support system, as they too all came from different countries and backgrounds. Once she settled in living in the United States, Uwadia was able to just focus on playing golf. She began to improve and get more comfortable living in her new home.
While Uwadia’s ultimate goal is to be the first golfer from Nigeria. Her journey has just started. She wants to win a major or be ranked number 1 in the world golf rankings. If her path at this point has indicated anything, is that she is able to persevere,challenge herself, and conquer anything even if she has it alone. So don’t be surprised if she accomplishes both.