A round with.. Shola Ameobi

The Newcastle United legend and Longhirst Hall Golf Club member shares stories from his golfing career and picks three people to join his dream fourball

For Newcastle United fans, Shola Ameobi needs no introduction. The Nigerian-born striker, who moved to Newcastle at the age of five, enjoyed a 15-year career with the Magpies, scoring 53 goals in 312 appearances in all competitions. Following a spell in Europe and with several clubs in England, Shola retired from professional football in 2018 and returned to Newcastle United in 2019 to manage the club’s loanees, a role he combines with his work as a trustee of the Newcastle United Foundation. A golfer since his early 20s, we caught up with him for 18 holes at Longhirst Hall Golf Club…

How much golf do you get to play?
Golf has been a big part of my life and while I play a little less since I retired from football, I still try and play two or three times a week.

How did you get into golf?
Golf was a big thing at Newcastle United, especially under Sir Bobby Robson, and I started playing just after I got into the first team. One of the first events I played in was Gary Speed’s golf day at Longhirst and I must have lost about 50 balls in the lakes. I loved the camaraderie though and got the bug. I played a couple of times a week straight after training at Newcastle United Golf Club and got a lot out of working to improve my handicap, which is now down to one. Golf is a great escape and I loved having that release from the pressure of football throughout my career.

Which is your favourite course in the North East?
I love playing at Longhirst. The members are fantastic, down to earth people and I can be myself here. I like the modern club environment too, the rules are relaxed but people take their golf seriously, and the two golf courses have come on amazingly in the years I’ve been coming here.

And further afield?
I always enjoy golf around North Berwick – the courses up there are spectacular. If I had to pick one club to visit, it would have to be Archerfield.

What’s your best score?
I shot it this summer, a one under-par 72 on the Dawson Course at Longhirst.

Which is your favourite golfing memory?
Once a year, I get together with three mates and we play for a little trophy. One year, at Yas Links in Dubai, one of the guys managed to hit a yacht! I have no idea how he hit it that far out over the water, but it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

What about your own embarrassing moments on the course?
Playing at Parklands [now High Gosforth Park], I managed to let go of a club mid-swing and it flew further than the ball into a lake. I’m still not sure how I managed it…

Do you have any golfing superstitions?
I don’t think so, though I do have to put my left shoe on first. I’ve done that right through my life though, not just with my golf shoes.

What are your strengths on the course?
I drive it long and when I drive it straight, I tend to score well.

And your weaknesses?
Being long, I can give myself a lot of good scoring opportunities on my day, but the putter lets me down at times.

Which is your favourite club in the bag?
My five iron – it feels like the perfect length for me and there’s nothing better than a properly hit long iron.

Who is your best golfing friend?
It’s hard to choose one person as I get so much out of being a social golfer and playing with lots of different people. Back in the day, I played a lot of golf with Alan Smith and brought him on when he was first starting out.

What would you be doing if you hadn’t had a career in football?
I’d always wanted to go to university and I thought I’d study law, but football was always my first love and when I got into the Newcastle system I didn’t look back.

Who is your favourite golfer?
Adam Scott – he’s a tall guy too and his swing is so good to watch.

Which golf event do you  enjoy most?
The Sir Bobby Robson Tournament at Villa Sol in Portugal is so special to be a part of. Seeing the guys he mentored and impacted come together every single year shows just how important Sir Bobby was to the people who were lucky to spend time with him. The money raised by that tournament has also done fantastic things and I’m very proud to still be a part of it.

Who do you admire?
From golf, I’d choose Jack Nicklaus. The concession in the Ryder Cup, the way he carried himself while competing and the way he’s become an elder statesman of the sport are inspiring things for every sportsperson.

Which three people would join you in your dream fourball?
I’d have to go for Denzel Washington, Tiger Woods and Condoleezza Rice.

If you could have one mulligan, when would you have used it?
You can keep it, golf’s all about the next shot.