When I first arrived on Tour back in 2007 (he says, feeling like a Vietnam veteran) I was told that my first two to three years were all about ‘paying your school fees’, writes RYAN CAIRNS in the latest issue of Compleat Golfer.
Hearing that always made me feel like after a few hard knocks, lip-outs and life lessons, there was meant to be a graduation party of sorts? Fifteen years down the road, I can say I was totally hoodwinked.
This game has no idea who is holding the club which just launched a ball 320 yards over a cross-bunker, before flipping a wedge to three feet and ‘kicking in’ the birdie putt. Just ask Nienabar, Schaper, Hojgaard, Vilimaki, Higgo and the other players who are yet to be of legal drinking age in Vegas.
Two moments stuck out for me recently as I watched the Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned events on TV. Aside from having bouts of ‘FOMO’, for the first time in years I didn’t have to ‘make the turn’ on a Friday and calculate how many birdies I would need on the back nine just to make the cut. Or even worse, relive my SA Open moment at Randpark last January. Being five under par through 15 holes in the first round, then realising that Louis was the only name above mine on the leaderboard, I decided to play safe, which resulted in a bogey-bogey-bogey finish.
Not this time, golf. This time, it was with an ice-cold beer, dogs on the couch and the volume turned up.
At the Joburg Open, Wilco Nienabar launched a tee shot down the par-five 4th hole at Randpark. I did not see this shot ‘live’ but heard about it from a member at Royal Harare that afternoon. His description surely could not have been accurate? Scrambling for his phone to play the video on European Tour’s Instagram, it soon showed the truth. In that moment of watching a tee shot being hit and finish over 400 yards down the fairway I felt a sense of total relief, in the fact I now have a day job.
The other moment of total appreciation was during the Sunday afternoon coverage of the Alfred Dunhill Championship, after Jayden Schaper’s triple-bogey on the 10th hole at Leopard Creek – shortly after taking the lead. What happened next has converted me into a massive Schaper fan. Making the turn at Leopard Creek is tough. From the treacherous par-three 7th hole, to an unforgiving run of holes from the 8th to the 11th. Nothing is scarier at Leopard Creek than the tee shot on the 11th hole, let alone trying to compose yourself and make a confident pass at the ball after a triple-bogey at the 10th.
Schaper pulled out driver. He ripped through the ball with no sign of doubt in the possibility that he had just pull-hooked a R4.5-million cheque into the bush on that previous hole. Instead, he knocked it on to the green and left himself 10 feet for eagle!
There is no question that Nienabar and Schaper are going to win a lot of tournaments and what class acts they already are. What we can learn from these two young guns right now, though, is that no matter what level you play this game, bad shots do happen and it’s what you do next that counts the most. The other thing we’ve learned is that none of us will ever know what it’s like to hit a tee-shot 400 yards, but that will never stop us from trying!