My tale about how a family friend backed a young amateur golfer in the cut-throat world of trying to turn pro.
Recently I was reminded of my start-up journey to professional golf after sitting down for dinner with the man who turned my childhood dream into reality. My original sponsor, ‘Rob’, was on a stopover in Johannesburg, so Lize and I met up with him at Emperors Palace Hooters for a meal before entering their weekly pub quiz.
We lost the quiz but had an unforgettable night, recounting stories to Lize’s amusement before she stole the show with a hilarious monologue on her life growing up in Rustenburg.
The highlight was how she found out that Father Christmas was actually ‘Oom Wimpie’, her marathon-running uncle, whose Santa suit pants were too short, leaving his skinny ankles and dirty Nikes on display as the final (heart-breaking) clue. It goes without saying that this story has since become a family classic.
This tale, however, is about how a family friend backed a young amateur golfer in the cut-throat world of trying to turn pro. It started with a meeting between Rob and my dad in Plettenberg Bay while I was living with my family in Australia and working a couple of hand-to-mouth jobs in Brisbane.
In a nutshell, Rob offered to float my golf and living expenses on a year-by-year basis and suggested the Gateway Tour (a pay-to-play tour in Scottsdale, Arizona) as my initial testing ground.
I’ll never forget my dad’s phone call confirming Rob’s offer, as it changed the course of my life.
I accepted the challenge and gave notice to both my employers. Packing shelves in a supermarket before bartending at night would be put on hold, as I would be teeing it up week in and week out against some fierce competition on America’s most popular development Tour.
This new reality got even better when Rob offered to include my brother Brendon as my caddie and travel partner. We arrived in Phoenix and kicked off our campaign with a missed cut by (at least) a dozen shots. Not exactly the ‘Hello, world!’ moment I had in mind for the start of my new career as a professional.
The second event on the schedule was played at the cactus-lined layout of Grey Hawk Golf Club. Two solid opening rounds set me up for my first cut made and I ended up banking a cool $961. That would have been bigger news if the entry fee for the tournament wasn’t $1 400, but that moment set me off on the rollercoaster ride of life as a professional.
Fourteen years, 300 tournaments and five stamp-filled passports later, I can confidently say my dream of playing on the PGA Tour is still in limbo. But the experiences, people I’ve met and places I’ve enjoyed along the way have led me to countless opportunities, on (and more so off) the golf course.
‘Golf’ and ‘life’ often mix when brought up in the more philosophically inspired conversations around the 19th hole. In golf, you always have a choice in how you bounce back from one of its many challenges. Life isn’t always like that, or is it?
– Cairns is a monthly magazine columnist for Compleat Golfer
– Follow @CairnzyGolf on Twitter. Cairns is driven by Group 1 Nissan and has been a fully exempt member on the Sunshine Tour since 2007.