Summer 2024

Roger Sali growing game of golf in native Uganda with help from Compassion

Twenty years from now, the biggest name in the sport of golf may not be from America, or Europe, or even Asia. At least if Roger Sali has anything to say about it.

A 27-year-old from Uganda, Roger has sought for years to become the first certified PGA professional trainer in his home country’s history. This would grant him unprecedented access to training, equipment and networking opportunities in the U.S. that he could then take back to Uganda as he aspires to teach the next generation of Ugandans how to play his favorite sport.

>> Subscribe to Sports Spectrum Magazine for more stories where sports and faith connect <<

“That’s basically my dream, to be a teaching pro and keep introducing golf to many people,” Roger told a group of PGA Tour filmmakers who recently traveled to Uganda to document Roger’s life in a four-part original mini-series called “Sali’s Story.” It’s more than an hour long and is available on YouTube.

Roger’s efforts to teach Ugandan youth about golf will be aided by Compassion International, the world’s most trusted child-development ministry whose mission is to “release children from poverty in Jesus’ name.” Compassion representatives came to see Roger teach in person, loved what he was doing for kids and wanted to be a part of it.

In Episode 3, Roger was surprised by a video call with PGA Tour pro Webb Simpson and his wife, Dowd. The Simpsons informed Roger that the PGA Tour is partnering with Compassion to assist Roger in his work, providing a donation that will help him obtain appropriate equipment and travel further distances to teach.

“You’ve spent so much time and given so much of your talent to help grow the game of golf there in Uganda for youth,” Webb Simpson said on the video call. “So we just wanted to say thank you, Roger, and keep up the good work and continue to do what you’re doing.”

A message at the conclusion of Episode 3 read: “Compassion and Roger are working to identify children in Compassion programs who would benefit from greater exposure to golf.”

Roger’s own introduction to golf came back in 2018, when he found a job as a caddie at Lake Victoria Serena Golf Resort near Kampala, Uganda, one of fewer than 20 golf courses in the country. And despite at first only securing the job to support his family after the death of his father, the oldest of five fell in love with the sport.

Largely self-taught with online videos and the help of an instructor friend in Chicago, Nick Schiavi, Roger not only learned the game for himself but developed a passion for helping kids learn it as well.

“Golf is going to give you very many opportunities in life,” he told a group of attentive students in Episode 1. “It will teach you manners like how to behave in community and society. And it also humbles you down, because it’s not an easy game.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Kawuki Rogers (@saligolfs)

Roger worked six days a week at Lake Victoria Serena, but on his one day off, Tuesday, he traveled around to nearby schools and communities to give golf lessons. Often, those lessons began with sending the kids out to find bottle caps to use as tees or other materials to fashion makeshift equipment.

Due to the widespread poverty in the area, purchasing high-end golf equipment often wasn’t feasible. The money it takes to be a serious golfer may present the single biggest impediment to the growth of the sport in Uganda.

Yet due to his tirelessness in spreading awareness about golf, as well as a golf-instruction Instagram account with more than 70,000 followers that Schiavi helped him launch, news about Roger and his mission soon reached some of the most important people at Compassion and with the PGA Tour.

The climax of the series came in Episode 4, when Roger was summoned for another surprise video call. This time, on the other end was John Lindert, the PGA of America president, with some very good news.

“We’d like to help you with your journey to become a PGA professional, give you access to the tools of our world-class education, to help you become a trainer and a promoter of the game of golf,” Lindert said.

Roger’s dream is finally coming true.

“I can’t wait to meet everybody, play golf in USA, start my journey to learn golf, become, like, a certified coach with all the papers,” Roger said. “It’s going to be a big milestone, not only to me but to my country, to my friends. I will be able to help a lot of friends to develop their swings.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Kawuki Rogers (@saligolfs)

The work of Roger and so many others has made a marked difference on the state of golf in Uganda. It’s more popular now than it was even five years ago, with more children starting at a younger age and national tournaments ballooning in numbers.

More people are just beginning to realize the untapped golfing talent in places like Uganda, but it’s something Roger and his associates have known for years.

“The only scary thing about Uganda,” said Theo van Rooyen, the Lake Victoria Serena golf director and Roger’s boss, “is the amount of talent you’re going to see.”

Now on the way to becoming a certified PGA professional trainer, Roger can continue to cultivate that talent. With the help of Compassion and the PGA Tour, he can make an even greater impact on his country and his sport than he ever has before.

“Golf is a very good game,” Roger said in Episode 1. “It has changed my life a lot, and I believe it can change many people’s lives.”

To help support Roger and the many Ugandan kids whom he’s inspired, visit Compassion’s website.

PGA Tour golfer Webb Simpson, caddie Paul Tesori: Friends, brothers in Christ
Pro golfer Kevin Streelman teams with Compassion in Togo
Falcons punter Bradley Pinion reps Jesus with words, Compassion with cleats
USWNT goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury combats world hunger with Compassion
SS PODCAST: Compassion President/CEO Jimmy Mellado on Olympics, poverty