ONLY ON 3: From snake-infested jungles to one of the best golfers in Wilmington
WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Ujang “Rain” Zarems grew up empty handed an hour outside of Jakarta, Indonesia. He always seems to have a golf club in his hand now. On top of that he seems to have a constant smile on his face during the three months he spends each summer in Wilmington.
“When you’re born into a poor family it’s really hard,” Zarems said.
Poor is an understatement for the 24-year-old. He’s one of 11 children.
“My economy of family forced me to work, so when I was 3 to 4 years old I had to work,” he said. “I went to the jungle finding golf balls and dove into the dirty river.”
Zarems ended selling the golf balls he found back to the members at the golf club in Indonesia. Wilmington’s Jean Louis Guillou is one of the members.
“It looks OK from the outside, but it’s pretty much snake-infested water,” Guillou said of the river Zarems would go into. “It’s Indonesia, the tropics. It’s snake paradise. You wouldn’t get me close to that water, but at age 3 and 4 he was diving in there trying to find balls.”
Eventually Zarems decided to do more with golf, than just hunt for lost balls.
“I started playing golf on the soccer field,” he said. “I made my own golf club from the branch of a tree.”
Zarems taught himself how to play golf, and it was Guillou who essentially saved him from a world of poverty.
“If you can change the life of one person, why not?” Guillou said.
Jean Louis wasn’t the only Guillou enamored with Zarems.
“Jean Louis said to me, I can’t save the world, but maybe I can give one kid a life,” Jean Louis’s mother Wendy Guillou said. “I said, ‘That’s a nice idea,’ but little did I know I was going to have a new son.”
That’s because Zarems left Indonesia in the spring of 2013 heading straight to Wilmington to live with the Guillou family at the Country Club of Landfall.
“When I got here in 2013 my English was terrible. It was really bad,” Zarems said.
Wendy Guillou did more than help Zarems with his English. She also helped him get a golf scholarship.
“When he arrived the first thing we did was call Cape Fear Community College,” Wendy Guillou said. “The director of sports and golf coach played three holes with him, and they said, ‘Done deal. We absolutely want him. He’s wonderful, respectful. He
understands everything.’ Two months later they called and said, ‘We can’t do it. We can’t get him a visa.'”
As a result Zarems had to go back to Indonesia.
A year later the golf coach at Graceland University in Iowa accepted Zarems with open arms. Zarems is currently number one on the Graceland men’s golf team heading into his senior season.
Hard work, determination and discipline paid off.
Jean Louis Guillou can’t believe what Zarems has accomplished on the course and in the classroom.
“My proudest moment was undoubtedly when I heard that he got a 3.6 GPA last quarter at Graceland,” Jean Louis said.
This is the third summer for Zarems in Wilmington. When he’s not working or teaching junior golfers at the Country Club of Landfall he’s trying to make a name for himself on the amateur circuit. He was on the leaderboard for two days in 2014 at the North Carolina Amateur. He ended up finishing in a tie for 36th. Zarems was actually tied for the lead after the first nine holes of the Carolinas Amateur in Charleston two weeks ago. He ended up missing the cut by one shot.
“I would like to go to the next level in golf, like playing on the PGA Tour or Asian Tour,” Zarems said. “That’s my dream.”
Graceland University pays for half of Zarems’s scholarship. Jean Louis Guillou is kind enough to pay the remainder.
Zarems can’t appreciate enough the kind generosity of the Guillou family in Wilmington. Overall the golf members at the Country Club of Landfall have been quite supportive as well. Zarems will finish up his internship at the club in late August under the supervision of head golf professional Sara Bush.