Amongst the 30 young female athletes featured in Assembly‘s (a Malala Fund digital publication for young women, Iyeneobong Essien @iyene_essien , 13-year-old Nigerian golf prodigy was chosen. Co-founded by Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai, Assembly is a platform for girls and young women around the world to share their thoughts, challenges and accomplishments. These Game Changers include footballers, skateboarders, gamers, swimmers, runners, golfers, skiers, surfers, fencers, softball players and martial artists. Some have competed at the Olympics and Paralympics.
For Essien, she picked up her first golf club when she was five years old. She’s described as Nigeria’s top junior golfer, with 17 medals and 11 international tournaments under her belt. Most recently, Essien took 10th place at the 2019 Nigeria Ladies Golf Open Championship, where she was the only teen player out of 177 golfers. While she works to bring home Nigeria’s first gold medal in golf at the upcoming 2022 Summer Youth Olympics, she’s also looking ahead to what she wants to study at university (artificial intelligence and robotics).
While Essien wishes more Nigerians girls were interested in golf, she knows the sport isn’t accessible to everyone. She says: “[Golf] is an expensive sport to start — you have to buy clubs, continually pay a coach to train you and go to tournaments. It is an elitist game.” Essien hopes the Nigerian government will put more effort into introducing the game to young girls and boys in the country and fund their training.
Essien wants to show other Nigerian girls that they can pursue any career they’re passionate about. “If [girls] see that what I’m doing is actually making me famous and I seem to enjoy it, they might like to find a profession that they will love to do in the future and also be noticed for their efforts,” she says.