Refugee making his way through sports

Academics, hard work also part of plan.

Patrick Rukundu has traveled a long way, both physically and mentally, during his 22-year-old life. Born and raised in a refugee camp in Rwanda until he was 16, when his family moved to the U.S. Now, he’ll be a junior at Wilberforce University, majoring in electrical engineering. With two coaches’ support, he recently received a Miami Valley Golf P.J. Boatwright internship, and spends his days on the Miami Valley Golf Club course.

Rukundu attributes his success to track and field coach Sidney Booker at Dunbar, where he spent his junior and senior years, and to William Ware, golf coach at Wilberforce.

“In the refugee camp, you may not dream big, because you know you can’t get it,” he said. “So when I moved here, I could think differently. When you have an opportunity, you have to take it – I take every opportunity out there and run with it.”

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His family first came to Baltimore, where he spent his freshman and sophomore years, then moved to Dayton.

“I was in track and cross country at Dunbar, and Coach Booker knew I was looking for a college,” he says.

“He’d coached William Ware, golf coach at Wilberforce, and connected him with me. Coach Ware called me, wanted me to come to Wilberforce on a golf scholarship – it was a good opportunity, so I took it.”

Rukundu started learning the game in 2020, during what he recalls as “the summer of COVID. I studied you-tube videos, and, at first, I didn’t like it. But when we started practicing on a course, I started enjoying it and went to the course more often, and now I love it. I’ll never forget the Covid summer of 2020 when everyone was uptight but good things happened for me.”

When school began, he went to a Beavercreek course, and later, played with the Wilberforce team in tournaments. “Our home course is Miami Valley Golf Club, and when I started, my score was 100, now it’s 80.”

Ware helped him to get the Miami Valley Golf P.J. Boatwright internship this summer, which, in addition to access to the course, includes helping to run the club’s tournaments, operations, and anything else that needs to be done, according to Jeff Mondeck, who helps to oversee his work at the club.

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“Patrick is an unbelievable guy,” said Mondeck. “As soccer coach at Centerville, I’ve had a lot of experience with young adult males, and he’s so genuine. He’s honest, passionate, appreciates everything he’s earned, and has taken advantage of the opportunities presented to him.”

Monbeck’s also recruited Rukundu, who’d played soccer before learning golf, as a part-time soccer referee. And, he’s keeping up with his studies in electrical engineering, reading books and studying during the summer.

Rukundu’s improvement in golf came from daily practice. “I love the game, and spend more than 30 hours a week on the course. I keep trying to get better, so I’m studying, figuring out new stuff, and keep focusing on the game so when school starts I’ll be prepared. I practice every day, any weather – there’s one indoor course in Beavercreek for winter, just one at a time can play.

“It’s a tough sport, and you have to practice to figure out the game. As long as I’m enjoying the game, I still have room to improve. In the beginning, I couldn’t be on the course more than four or five hours a day; now, as soon as I wake up, I think about going to the golf course.

“But I couldn’t do anything without Coach Ware – he changed my life, and my 19-year-old brother’s, Yves Tuyishime, who’s also on the Wilberforce team. He’s my best friend, and we challenge each other. As long as you have a good coach, anything can happen.”

Contact this writer at virgburroughs@gmail.com.

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