Nigerian Anita Uwadia Already Making an Impact on the Epson Tour

Golf isn’t popular in Nigeria. Like most of the rest of the world, football has captured the national attention of the nearly 225.1 million people who live there, rightly so as the Nigerian national football team has qualified for six of the last eight FIFA World Cups. So, it’s not surprising that the masses haven’t flocked to the handful of golf properties that speckle the countryside, demanding clubs and balls and tees, instead choosing a game of footie, scoring imaginary goals and pretending to be the next Jay-Jay Okocha or Mikel John Obi.

Growing up, golf was never on Anita Uwadia’s radar. Her father, Charles, having discovered the game during his time living in England and wanting to introduce it to his children, would often take Uwadia’s brother, Charles Jr., to the range, with Anita tagging along so she didn’t have to stay home with her mother and other siblings. It didn’t matter to her if she swung a club or not. Being outside and watching her brother was enough. But as is the case with many youngsters, watching gave way to trying, and Charles quickly noticed Anita had an aptitude for the game.

“I used to hang out with my brother quite a bit and so I was just like, ‘You know what, I'm just gonna come to golf with you. Even if I just watch I don't care, but I just want to be outdoors. I want to be with you guys,’” Uwadia recalls. “My first set of clubs, they were actually my brother's clubs. I don't know what the brand was but they were just one of those little kids’ clubs and so I used to go to golf with (my brother and dad) and then my dad saw that I loved golf.”

Soon, Charles bought Uwadia her own set of Callaway clubs and some Wilson golf balls. She started practicing at the local course nearby. It wasn’t anything fancy and nothing more than your local muni, a club where you hit off mats at the driving range and whose greens weren’t green but rather brown and sandy, so much so that you had to rake your line before putting to give your ball any chance of going in.

She devoured “Golf Digest” magazines and golf books, mimicking the swings she saw on the page, trying to make written word and multicolor ink come to life in her living room. An eventual family move gave Uwadia access to the Ikoyi Club, a nicer facility where she began to really hone her game, and as she progressed, Anita’s father came to her with a question that would ultimately transform her life.

“I had a friend who plays professionally now. He liked to go to a little clinic with him and some other kids and he just suddenly stopped coming to the clinic. My dad found out from his dad that he went to America,” said Uwadia. “So, my dad asked me, ‘Do you want to go to America to play golf?’ I didn't really think much about it. I didn't think you could have a career in golf. I didn't think about a college scholarship because I didn't know all those existed. We don't have access to that kind of information in Nigeria.

“So, I'm like, ‘Do I want to come to America? Sure,’ because I watched a lot of “Disney Channel” when I was young. When you're back in Nigeria, America seems like this country where you walk outside, and you can just pluck money from the trees. That's what they make it sound like in Nigeria, and so that's the only reason why I wanted to come. I didn't think much about (getting) to practice every day, or I get to become this amazing golfer. I wanted to be an accountant when I was young.”

Uwadia moved to the United States by herself at just 12 years old, a rather adventurous undertaking for a pre-teen. She settled in South Carolina and attended Hilton Head Preparatory School for the rest of her formative years. She would go on to earn a spot on the University of South Carolina women’s golf team, and spent four years as a Gamecock, earning WCGA All-American Scholar honors all four seasons. While golf was fun and would ultimately become her career, college allowed Uwadia to pursue and study her other passions, namely theater and acting. She has that “it” factor, a deadly combination of warmth and wit, and an outgoing, bubbly personality that allows her to befriend virtually everyone with whom she crosses paths. So, it’s no surprise that she’s found herself in the literal spotlight a time or two.

“I studied entrepreneurship. But I also studied theater. That was my minor,” said Uwadia. “I always say if I'm not winning golf tournaments, I'm gonna be winning Oscars. When I was in high school, I was in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest.’ It's a British show and I was Ernest. I was a guy. But yeah, I was the main lead, believe it or not, so that was really fun. Just being on an actual stage and being in a lead role, that was great. That was awesome.”

Uwadia first joined the Epson Tour in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, playing only three events in the summer of her inaugural season. The next year was a bit more fruitful – she had two top-15 finishes – and 2022 was even better with Uwadia nabbing two top fives and a pair of T4s that came at the Copper Rock Championship presented by KSLSPORTS.COM and the Epson Tour Championship.

She’s one of only a handful of Black players competing on the Epson Tour, teeing it up with players like friend and fellow African Lakareber Abe as well as, African Americans Shasta Averyhardt, Alexis Belton and Ginger Howard. Uwadia considers Averyhardt to be a mentor. The veteran has taught the young Nigerian a lot about the history of Black female golfers and how influential they’ve been to the success of the LPGA organization.

“I'm African, not African American so the culture is very different,” Uwadia said. “(Shasta) has been a great help. She’s amazing to every other Black person coming up. Shasta is someone I’ve looked up to and aspire to be like. You go back in history, Renee Powell and all these people, I never grew up knowing about them and that's something I'm learning from Shasta because she did know about them growing up.”

Abe is Ugandan and Uwadia feels especially connected to her because Abe understands African culture and gets her Nigerian roots. There are hardly any Africans competing on the Epson Tour and because of that fact, the bond the pair share is even stronger as they support each other on and off the golf course. “(Lakereber) lives in Houston and Houston is where they have the biggest concentration of Nigerians,” said Uwadia. “She understands Nigerian culture just as much as I do. We always send little memes to each other. Not necessarily just Nigerian memes, but memes that every African can relate to. So little things like that, we always share our experiences with each other.”

Out on Tour, Uwadia and Abe also share the experience of being role models for young Black girls to look up to. While she’s Nigerian and not African American, Uwadia recognizes her position as a Black professional golfer and what it means to her community that she’s competing at the highest level. It’s that fact that drives her to succeed, that pushes her to be the best version of herself that she can be, that encourages her to chase her dreams even when things get hard.

“Do I want to be the first Black woman to win not just one but countless majors? Yes. Do I want to be known as an ambitious and hardworking person? Yes. Do I want to inspire people to live their truth and go for what they want? Yes. Do I want to help the homeless on a large scale? Yes. Do I want to be a multi-millionaire and share my wealth? Yes,” said Uwadia. “The chances of all these happening are slim but the one thing I know is that my dreams will replay in my mind’s eye every single day. I will work and keep believing it’s possible and see what happens.”

But most importantly, Uwadia knows it’s the legacy that she leaves off the golf course that’s most meaningful, that will be what’s talked about long after she puts the clubs away, that will make the biggest difference in the grand scheme of things.

“On a small scale in terms of something I can control, I hope to leave a legacy of being a simple, good human being. Treat the earth with care, treat people with kindness, make a small or large change in peoples’ lives, live a carefree yet not a careless life, and leave things a bit or a lot better than I found them.”

She’s already on her way to doing just that.