Ujang (pronounced “Rain”) Zarems has golfed his way to the United States and Graceland University all the way from Bogor, Indonesia! This wasn’t an easy trip, however. Ujang has been working for his entire life to have an opportunity like this one, but, he says, “As a kid, I never knew golfing could turn in to this.”
Since the age of three, Ujang has worked to pay for school. His house wasn’t far from the local golf course, so after school he would collect golf balls from the river, clean them up, and sell them. Ujang says, “It was tough, but I could usually earn what equals about ten or twenty US dollars per week, which is a lot for a kid.” He used this money to pay for elementary school, and gave some to his parents. He admits it was a tough life for a child, but says, “My life forced me to do it, so I’ve got to be able to handle everything I’ve got.”
Because he lived so close to the golf course and collected golf balls to sell, Ujang began to golf too. “I made my own golf club from a tree branch and I made the ball from tree sap. Then, I played on the soccer field near my house and practiced a lot.”
All of his practicing paid off when he qualified to play golf in his hometown. He says, “A lot of the other players were from rich families, unlike me, so my family was very proud and surprised that I made it.” Since that first tournament, he played all over Indonesia and won a scholarship. He says, “Then I decided to play golf seriously because I believe I can change my life to be better.” He began to play in tournaments all over Indonesia, but also in China, Malaysia, and Thailand. A lot of people financially supported Ujang to be able to go to the Junior World Championship in San Diego in 2008.
By 2010, Ujang had to stop playing because he didn’t have enough money to continue entering in the tournaments. He took a three year break and went to college in Indonesia, until 2013 when one of the members of his club gave him the opportunity to come to the United States for a tournament. This man became his sponsor, and Ujang did very well in tournaments around the U.S. At the end of 2013, his sponsor decided to help Ujang go to college in the U.S. It was very hard to find a college for so long because they offered such small amounts in scholarship money. Finally, after sending lots of emails, Ujang got a response from the Graceland golf coach, Kevin Brunner, and Ujang is now enrolled at Graceland and playing for the golf team.
Ujang shares, “I love Graceland because all of the people are really nice, helpful, and friendly. They make campus feel like a family. The other international students also help me feel better about living so far away from home.” This means a lot to Ujang because he can not communicate with his family in Indonesia. He misses them a lot, but he knows they’re very proud of him. Another struggle Ujang manages at Graceland is his coursework, made extra difficult because Ujang is still working on his English. He admits it’s difficult, but, he says, “I have to work hard if I want a better life.”
Ujang will spend the summer living with his sponsors’ parents and working. His story serves as an inspiration for anyone who has ever wanted to change their legacy. As Ujang says, “I want a better life, so I am patient and I work hard.”