Travelling has and always will be my favourite part of playing on Tour.
For the most part it has been far from glamorous, but somehow the most rough-and-ready weeks on the road also offered me some truly unforgettable moments.
Typically, a week on Tour comprises of the below travel expenses as I briefly outlined a few months ago:
• Tournament entry fee = R500
• Return flight (low to high) = R4,000 for SA events; R15,000 to Kenya
• Accommodation = R5,000 (five nights)
• Yardage books = R500
• Caddie fees = R4,000
• Food = R1,500 (R100/meal)
• Rental car/taxi = R2,000 (R400/day)
• Emergency/other = R1,000
On average, the costs are between R15,000 and R20,000 per tournament for SA-based tournaments and up to R35,000 for the Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe tournaments.
Multiply these numbers out to an average of 30 tournament weeks per year and you will need around R500 000 per season to compete on the Sunshine Tour.
As a professional golfer you need to either cut back on your expenses or generate more revenue. The latter is easier said than done.
Sharing the fuel costs of a 14-hour road trip to the coastal events and asking an uncle’s second cousin if they have a spare room for us to share was always our first option. Not only did my travel buddy and I get to save R5,000 to R10,000 each week on the road by doing this, but it was also a great way to meet locals in each new town on the schedule.
I recall playing a tournament in a small farming town called Seaforth in Canada in 2008. The week started off with the Canadian Tour secretary sharing some great news with us, when a lady from a real estate company offered to host Nemanja and me for the week. It got better when Katie walked into the office to collect us and resembled a blonde 30-something Elizabeth Hurley. It goes without saying that a few murmurs from other players were overheard in the carpark as we wheeled our travel bags behind her.
Our juvenile dreams were shattered when we got to the house and met Katie’s boyfriend. The week recovered quickly, though, and their friends made it even more memorable, from campfire guitar sessions to hearing how one of them unknowingly opened the front door at a braai to let in the lead singer of Nickelback who walked in carrying a six pack of beers.
Back on the golf course at Seaforth Country Club, there was the elderly couple I mentioned last month who walked the entire round with my group. I then noticed them outside the score-recording office and thanked them for walking with our group. To which they replied that they had seen the Zimbabwe flag on the tee sheet and walked with me because 28 years prior, they hosted Nick Price when he played at this same event.
John and Karen Pook were their names and I later confirmed that Nick was still in touch with them nearly three decades later.
So next time a Sunshine Tour event rolls into your home town, drop the Tour an email about hosting a player. Because who knows, you could have a future Major champion sleeping on your couch that week.
– This column first appeared in the August 2023 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine.