• Jangling nerves

    Ryan Cairns
    In the swing

    The return of the Limpopo Championship was warmly welcomed by the players and staff of the Sunshine Tour.

    The last regular Tour event of the wraparound 2018-19 season took place at Euphoria Golf & Lifestyle Estate in Limpopo.

    The Annika Sorenstam design has stood the test of time since its inception in 2008, weathering some of the worst storms a golf estate could possibly face. It has been built, sold, bought, sold and bought again, but thankfully this time by an investment group with a passionately fuelled vision for its future, so keep an eye on this true golfing gem.

    It is that time in the season where so much is on the line for dozens of players, each with their own reasons. Some are vying to win for the first time. Some are purely content to have survived a gruelling season, while others ‘on the bubble’ try to hang on to their playing privileges for the new season.

    It always comes down to one holed or missed putt, each and every year, without exception. I will follow up with finality on the ‘makes and misses’ of this season-ending event in next month’s issue.

    One season comes to an end, and the next begins (almost immediately), as close to 400 Sunshine Tour hopefuls have been whittled down to the top 156 for Final Stage at Houghton Golf Club. All are spending the last few days preparing for their only shot at joining the Tour until this time next year. Only 30 cards are available over five rounds of golf, and having been there before I know Q-School is hands down the most gut-wrenching tournament on earth. Every shot, every moment and even some of your thoughts between shots will end up counting one way or another.

    I vividly remember the 2008 Canadian Tour Q-School. Having stuck to my game plan the entire way around both host courses, safely navigating 71 of the 72 holes in the tournament, I walked up the stepping stones on to the 18th tee box at six-under par. The projected ‘card-earning score’ was locked in at level par, which put me ‘comfortably’ six shots in front of the mark, with one (short enough) par-four to play. But the words ‘comfortable’ and ‘Q-School’ have never officially met, and when I reached the uphill tee I looked down at how close any out-of-bounds stakes might be located to the first cut of rough on either side of the invisible fairway.

    It was then that the voices in my head told me, ‘Just don’t make an 11!’

    I ended up taking an iron for my 72nd tee shot in that event and made a nervy par to earn a Canadian Tour card for the season. The lesson? Sometimes there is just no room in this game to be a hero!

    – Cairns is a Sunshine Tour pro who offers his monthly thoughts for the magazine 

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