The upcoming Presidents Cup has got ANDY CAPOSTAGNO’s mind drifting back to the 2003 event at Fancourt in the latest issue of Compleat Golfer.
The Presidents Cup is just around the corner. It’s the USA’s turn to host the International side, captained by Nick Price. It naturally got me thinking about the 2003 version, played at the Links at Fancourt, when Price was still on the playing side of the team.
It was the only Presidents Cup to finish in a tie, and the only one to almost broadcast a fight between two 60-year- old men live on air. It was also the only one I attended as a journalist, mainly because I happened to be living at Fancourt at the time.
In the buildup to the event there were regular press conferences, not all of which were about golf. We were told confidently that The Presidents Cup would put George on the map. People would be flying in from all over the world for the unique experience. Local businesses would be given a leg up and guesthouses from Mossel Bay to Plettenberg Bay would be booked solid.
It didn’t quite pan out that way. It wasn’t that no one came. The crowds were good, but the vast majority were from George. Far from not being able to get accommodation anywhere on the Garden Route, friends of mine rented a house next to The Links with a week to go before the event.
A hospitality village was built on vacant land at The Links. Far from uplifting local business, however, everything for the event was flown in directly from the US – tents, chairs, tables, even the signage.
You might have thought someone in George could have produced a ‘Gents’ signboard fairly competently. They were never given the chance.
One local man, my friend Braam, did spectacularly well out of the event, however.
On the Monday after The Presidents Cup ended, he marched in and made a cash offer for all the remaining merchandise – shirts, caps, umbrellas. That week the people of George who had been unwilling to buy a cap for R150 or a shirt for R600, could purchase the same stock for a quarter of the price.
Then there was the television coverage. South African cameramen are justly famous for their skill in covering sports events. Many fly all over the world at the behest of major broadcasters. The Presidents Cup flew in an all-American crew for the week.
Problem was, very few of them had covered golf before. So on day one, viewers were treated to views of the cloud formations and indigenous flora, but rarely got to see the dimpled ball in flight. There were hurried phone calls at the end of the day, and on day two, Danie, Barend, Thato and co took their rightful places behind the camera.
Ultimately, it was television that guaranteed the event ended in a tie. With the score at 17-all, Ernie Els and Tiger Woods were sent out to play for the trophy. It was already gloomy when they began, but when Ernie sunk a nerve-jangling six-footer for a half at the third extra hole, the cameras could no longer follow the ball anywhere beyond the green.
It was then that the two 60-year-olds almost came to blows. There was a scrum of officials gathered around the 18th green and with the cameras rolling, Jack Nicklaus, captain of the US team, dared to suggest to his counterpart, Gary Player, that the US would retain the trophy they had won in 2000.
Gary is five years older than Jack, but the fires still burn bright. I swear I saw him start to roll up his jacket sleeves, at which point Jack chose discretion as the better part of valour and agreed to share the trophy.
– This column first appeared in the July issue of Compleat Golfer, now on sale!