A creative route into the Mauritius Open field ensured there was quite a story to tell.
Late in the season each year the Sunshine Tour throws its hat in the ring alongside the Asian and European Tours, in professional golf’s original tri-sanctioned tournament, the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open.
As you can imagine, earning a spot at this prestigious event, playing for €1-million and spending a week at a five-star resort in Mauritius is at the top of many Sunshine Tour players’ pre-season goals.
With fewer than 40 players from each of the three participating Tours gaining automatic entry at the limited field (and my ranking sitting somewhere in the 60s at the time), I was forced to take a more ‘creative route’ to book a spot into the event at Heritage Le Telfair.
With sponsors’ invites hard to come by, the ABMO tournament organiser, Thomas Abt, casually ran an idea by me after the Tshwane Open’s function. He suggested that if I could get a musician friend of mine, Ard, to attend the tournament as a ‘celebrity caddie’, he could book my spot into the elite field by way of a special invite, as the sponsors were fans of his music.
With that, I sent a WhatsApp, ‘Hey bro … Fancy coming to Mauritius for that AfrAsia Bank tournament?’ The reply was typically simple: ‘Only if I can caddie for you …’ Ha! What a mate! Within a couple of days, our tickets were booked and a week at Heritage Resort for the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open lay ahead.
The tone for our trip was set early. While moving the clubs from my Tour bag to a stand bag at OR Tambo, Ard asked what I was doing. Having explained that the Tour bag weighs double, he insisted we were going there to win, so the cameras should see the ‘real deal’ walking up the 18th fairway. That Tour bag managed to get through the first two days at Heritage Resort’s demanding, hillside layout, before spending the weekend in our hotel room after being replaced by a local member’s stand bag for the final two rounds.
After arriving in Mauritius, we banked a couple of practice rounds and felt ready for the first round. Despite an early tee time we cruised around in a two-under-par 69, which we imagined would put us somewhere in the middle of this 144-strong field.
I then made a ‘rookie error’ by spending the rest of my afternoon watching the live coverage on TV and noted a considerable number of water hazards, courtesy of the panoramic drone shots. I’m sure you can imagine what happened the following day.
Two tee shots found the (now highly visible) water hazards. The projected cut line of one over was displayed all over the course. Then, in a final-hole, cut-line-fever panic, I misread the yardage book and under-clubbed by 20 yards, narrowly escaping a third water-bound ball.
Following that ‘nervy’ final hole, I waited anxiously as the cut line bounced back and forth with my name and two-day total hanging in the balance. The final groups’ scores were posted a short while later and the result was official. I had made the cut, right on the number.
Thankfully we could play freely again on the weekend and climb back up the leaderboard. Although the intentions were there, a brutal Saturday meant slipping down the leaderboard, before a solid closing round did little more than provide some damage control by covering the cost of our trip.
Overall it was an incredible week, which included (both of us) playing an impromptu acoustic gig at the Friday night function and some beach mini-golf before capping off the trip with a helicopter flip around the island, accompanied by the eventual tournament winner George Coetzee and his girlfriend, CJ.
– This column first appeared in the July issue of Compleat Golfer, follow Ryan on Twitter: @cairnzygolf