It is quite a leap from being a child soldier in the Sudan to playing golf on the manicured fairways of the Innisfail Golf Club but Maluk Ayomkok made that jump even if it took him many years to do so.
The 41-year-old was more comfortable holding an AK-47 than a nine iron but after his father-in-law introduced him to the game of golf a few years back he was hooked for life.
“Back then I didn’t even know how to hold a club but he said go have fun with it,” he recalled. “So I went to the driving range and I didn’t do so good but I wasn’t discouraged. I saw it as a challenge.”
Growing up in the Sudan was a challenge to just stay alive but being free of that life has not lessened his thirst for learning and golf is on his list.
He is a fixture on the driving range at the Innisfail Golf Club under the watchful eye of head professional Jim Boomer who was impressed with Ayomkok’s raw, athletic talent.
“It was fun to take that and sort of massage it a bit so he could start to notice the things that would start to cause him to be more consistent as a golfer.”
Coming from a country which recently got its first nine-hole course in 2010, the game was about as foreign to Ayomkok as anything could be but he has since learned some of the nuances this game brings out in players.
Armed with an engaging personality he has no problem explaining golf through what he has learned to anyone who cares to listen and don’t be surprised if you hear a few references to players like Ben Hogan and Sam Snead.
While most of us love to grab the driver and rip a few out there Ayomkok says he’s more in tune with the short game.
“You can be good with your irons and you can be good with your driver but if you’re not good with your short game, well you’re not going to be very good,” he said.
Like any athlete Ayomkok has a goal in mind after all the hard work he has put into this game and that is to play golf at the highest level he can, learning from the best players he can find.
“They have something you don’t know and they will show you,” he said. “And one day to teach the next generation my style. How hard was it for me and how easy I can introduce it to them.”
Boomer says he has no doubt Ayomkok will become the best player he can because it seems to be in his DNA to not give into failure. “He’s certainly on track as far as his golf goes,” he said about his future as a player. “Not too many people can see what’s coming there but with that wing span and the work ethic he puts in, he’s going to be a very good player.”
So while the pro is giving him some instruction on the game of golf, the student has supplied his teacher with a different perspective on this part of the world which many of us just might take for granted on occasion.
Ayomkok says he could not plan this path his life has taken but he is very grateful to be in his new country which he refers to as the closest place to heaven on earth.
“In philosophy there’s no wrong argument if you can prove it and I can prove that Canada is the best place because you saw me as a soldier holding an AK-47 and now I’m all dressed (in golf attire) and not dirty or anything.”
It’s hard to argue.