Black History Month: Sela Ogada and Jalen Apedoe discuss Diversity in Golf and Accessibility for Everyone

Written by Kevin Smith & Taylor Tracey

When Tiger Woods won The Masters in 1997 as a 21-year-old his breakthrough victory as the first black major champion was seen as a monumental win that would surely change the face of golf. The face of golf and diversity in the game on both the men’s and women’s side are certainly changing, it’s just taken a lot longer than most people thought.

Sela Ogada is a 13-year-old golfer born in Calgary whose father is from Kenya and mother is from Hong Kong. Jalen Apedoe is a 15-year-old golfer born in Calgary whose father’s heritage is from Ghana in West Africa and a mother with European roots.

Sela Ogada

Jalen Apedoe

Both were asked who their heroes were in sports or the world in general and Tiger Woods was at the top or near the top for both.

“I say definitely Tiger Woods because he’s the best golfer of all time and was so dominant in his prime,” Ogada said. “I also like Brooke Henderson too because she’s Canadian and she’s a woman golfer and I got to meet her twice which is cool and she’s really nice. Both really inspire me to be successful.”

Odaga, who also has a 9-year-old brother Samuel who’s just as focused on golf, plays out of Sirocco Golf Club south of Calgary. Shannon Raina a former golf professional at Sirocco and Craig Gibson the current Sirocco Head Pro both watched Sela and her brother discover the love of the game and are proud of her hard work and dedication.

9-year-old Samuel Ogada

Sela Ogada’s coach is Paul Horton who’s produced many great golfers in the province over the past 30 years, and Ogada likes that Paul is always asking her what she wants to work on, and she says the video analysis is cool too. She first discovered the game a decade ago when she was 3 and says she loves that it’s an independent sport.

“The first time I ever picked up a golf ball I was 3, we we’re going to get groceries but then my parents passed by a driving range, and they wanted me to try it out.” Ogada said. “When we got there one of the coaches gave me a club and I got introduced into the game. Now that I’m playing and competing, I like how it’s just you and if you play good or bad it’s all on you and it’s not anyone else.”

Sela’s father Kefa works in finance and moved to Calgary 20 years ago, he noticed that all his business colleagues played golf, but he knew nothing about the game and that was a barrier.

“I found out that most of my colleagues played golf and it seemed like a great place for them to connect with one another and I couldn’t join them,” Kefa admitted. “I think learning golf is important, you don’t have to be good at it, but you should know how to play so you can network.”

Jalen Apedoe picked up a golf club at the age of 5, playing out of Priddis Greens and Serenity Golf Club. His swing coach is Dan Cameron while Scott Stiles works with him on putting and short game. Jalen loves the social aspect of golf, as well as the competitiveness and the challenge of the game. His parents always played the game and wanted the family to get into it as well and he says it means a lot to him to be a black golfer.

“To me being a black golfer is important and I acknowledge it because it’s a way I can bring awareness to both black people and their accomplishments, achievements, and successes and bring more awareness and diversity to the game of golf,” Apedoe said. “It’s a way I can diversify golf and bring a different audience’s attention to the game. It’s important that we recognize Black History Month obviously to celebrate black people, the culture, and their accomplishments and then also just bring awareness to past difficulties and challenges that black people have faced and the efforts that have been taken to get to the point in society where black people have equal rights and equal freedoms and opportunity in society.”

Jalen Apedoe

Sela Ogada feels the same way about recognizing Black History Month.

“I think it’s important to recognize all the people in the past who have helped pave the way for us in the world in general but also for golf so we can play on golf courses and play on tour,” Ogada said. “Back then black people weren’t allowed to play golf on certain courses, they would be discriminated against, so I feel it’s important to recognize those people.”

Sela Ogada

Both Sela and Jalen say they’ve had great experiences playing golf in Alberta.

“When I was younger and even now, I never really felt any discrimination or anything here so I can’t say being a black golfer feels any different,” Ogada admitted. “I just think golf in general it doesn’t matter where you’re from, and it teaches you so many life lessons, like how to control your emotions if you hit a bad shot or problem solving if you’re in a tough spot.”

And Apedoe says he’s felt welcome in Alberta and even when playing out of province or country as well.

“I feel like overall I’ve just had great experiences with golf all over. Everywhere I’ve traveled to for golf tournaments I feel very welcome and included and I feel like the tournament directors and staff have done a great job at the events and for all competitors,” Apedoe admitted. “Everybody has been very welcoming, social and friendly at all events I have traveled to which has really made my experience in golf a lot better.”

When asked about accessibility getting better for everyone in golf both Sela and Jalen mentioned the Youth on Course program that is run across North America and provides golf for $5 or less at 25 golf courses in Alberta if you’re under 19 years of age.

“I played in a tournament in Louisiana and met a girl who is black and she said a lot of people of colour don’t usually play golf because they think it’s too expensive,” Ogada said. “I really like what Youth on Course is doing, like $5 to play 18 holes is really nice and making it a lot more affordable.”

“I think golf is a difficult sport to diversify because it’s a very expensive sport and it’s difficult to get into, so I think that it’s important that institutions and people make the game more accessible in any way possible. I think people are doing a very good job at this, initiatives like First Tee and Youth on Course being able to get out onto courses for cheap rates and just have fun and start getting into the game in those ways,” Apedoe said.” We need to get people opportunities like those to get involved and fall in love with the game.”

Golf Without Borders is another Alberta program doing great work, chaired by Jeffrey Sundquist of Edmonton, and looking to help kids from marginalized and indigenous communities. Eric Bouchard is a Calgary-Lougheed MLA and on the board of GWB and says he’s seen first-hand the hard work Sela and her brother Samuel put in at Sirocco Golf Club.

“I am honoured to join Golf Without Borders. As a new MLA, I am excited to bring attention to this amazing cause and, hopefully, impact the lives of many youths through it,” Bouchard said. “I am excited to lend Sela and Kefa as much support as I can in my role as the MLA for Calgary Lougheed. I look forward to watching Sela’s career grow, both on and off the course, and support more young golfers within our community.”

Tiger Woods’ former roommate at Stanford and lifelong friend Notah Begay now runs the Notah Begay 111 Junior Golf National Championships and is expanding into Canada, Sela is a junior ambassador for the sponsor Dickson Golf.

Both Sela Ogada and Jalen Apedoe have had their golfing breakthroughs. Apedoe winning the 2021 Alberta U13 Championship while Ogada won the 2023 McLennan Ross Alberta Junior Tour Championship in a playoff.



Jalen Apedoe’s other role models include Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau, and basketball legend Steph Curry, watching Curry perform his sport at the highest level is inspiring for him.

“Black culture to me is a large part of who I am and to me it’s something to be proud of. It’s about being proud of your heritage and celebrating black people in all different ways,” Apedoe beamed. “It’s just a way to unify and to celebrate the joy and resilience of black people.”

As for Sela, she feels fortunate to be growing up in a time where diversity and Black History Month is celebrated.  

“I think it’s definitely been getting better compared to when my parents were kids and stuff,” Ogada said. “People are more accepting I feel and putting their differences aside and just accepting everyone which is nice.”

Kefa and Elaine Ogada with baby Sela

Speaking of Sela’s parents, much like Tiger Woods, her dad is black and her mom is Asian and along with enjoying black heritage and traditions they also enjoy celebrating the Chinese New Year as well.

Sela says her favourite colour is red because it’s considered lucky in her mom’s culture, I think a certain 15-time major winner likes red as well, and to come full circle on her looking up to Woods as a golfer, Sela was born in 2010 which is the year of the “Tiger”.

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