December 2012
Post Nedbank Golf Challenge

Our journey to Sun City from Dubai was fairly straight forward. An 8 hour flight to Johannesburg, then a quick 20 minutes on a little propeller plane to Pilanesberg airstrip, which is only 10 minutes from Sun City. I’m not a great fan of these small planes. There were 8 of us on the flight. Myself, Paul, Marian, and Peter Hanson and family. The take-off was bumpy, and as the pilot banked steeply, we could see everything below us…. “What a great view” remarked Peter, unaware I was turning a lighter shade of green “Aye, …smashing” I replied, trying not to look. Of course Chippie found this hilarious. I was happy when we touched down!

It was my first time to Sun City and I was impressed. Nothing was too much trouble. All the caddies were put up in the main hotel, and we were given an allowance to spend every day (which I didn’t even come close to using). I was even allocated my own caddie!!! Moses was his name, and he carried the bag everywhere, except during the tournament proper, where he walked inside the ropes, carrying extra water, food, and raking any bunkers we visited. He did a great job, and when he left on Sunday after the tournament, he was beaming from ear to ear, laden down with all the clothes, balls, gloves, and shoes he could carry, and a wallet full of rand.

During the week, there are a few official functions to attend. The opening dinner was on Tuesday evening, followed by a beach party on Thursday, and a Bush Barbeque on Friday. On Wednesday, Paul, Marian and myself went to feed the elephants at the local game park after the pro-am, and on Saturday I went on a dusk game drive at the Pilanesberg national park. No wonder I was knackered when I got home.

Anyway, it was down to the serious business of golf (we weren’t there on holiday, honestly). The golf course was tight, with some of the fairways down to 12 or 13 yards at driving distance. Swirling winds on the first two days made club selection difficult, and the scoring was very bunched. Paul played nicely and after two rounds lead by a shot on four under par. On Saturday the weather was much cooler with stronger winds, and scoring was even trickier. It was one of those days where if anything could go wrong, it did, and a 3 over par 75 was the result. This put us back into 6th spot going into Sunday. As there were only 12 players competing, the scoring had become quite spread out after Saturday’s play. Walking down the 7th fairway on Sunday, Chippie looked at the leaderboard and noticed that we were 3 shots behind 5th and 3 shots ahead of 7th. “Unless something drastic happens, were finishing 6th” And finish 6th we did. It had been a very entertaining week, on and off the golf course, and a very handsome prizefund topped the week off. It was now time to get home and enjoy 5 weeks off, celebrating the 2012 season. Before you know it , we’ll be off on our travels again in 2013. Merry Christmas when it comes folks…

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Me and Moses 

Post Race to Dubai

The last official tournament of the year…. The Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates, with a whopping $8million prize fund, not to mention the top ten bonus pool up for grabs. We started the week in 10th position in the Race to Dubai order of merit, so couldn’t afford to drop any spots in order to qualify for the bonus. In this situation though, you just play your normal game, and concentrate on the tournament itself. Chippie was well up for the week, having had a nice top ten finish in Hong Kong the week before, and had some great memories of last year to draw from. The course was in stunning condition, and the weather was perfect, 24-28 degrees every day.

As they tee off in order of merit order, (lowest position tees off first) we were one of the last groups out, paired with Graeme Mcdowell. Both he and Chippie played some lovely golf, but neither of them could get the ball in the hole. Paul was 1 under 71 to Mcdowell’s 72. Due to benign conditions, the scoring was good, so we had an earlier tee time the next day….perfect for posting a number early. We played at 8.40 on Friday. As we were waiting on the first tee, I asked the starter, Ivor Robson if he would have any yardage book covers for next year…”how about now?” he replied, simultaneously pulling one out of from inside his jacket pocket. Paul Daniels couldn’t have done it any better. Everyone laughed, and the mood was set for a good day.  Again Paul played lovely, but the putts just wouldn’t drop, and 72 was the end score. There was a now a wee bit of frustration building, as Paul was striking the ball as good as he had done all year, and not getting much to show for it. Still, we fully expected things to change over the weekend, and we had a nice draw for Saturday, playing with Francesco Molinari. He and Paul get on well, and I’m good friends with his caddie Jason, so a nice day was in prospect. Yet again Paul was imperious tee to green, but as each putt slipped by the hole( usually on the left side this particular day), he was close to boiling point. At one stage, having missed a good birdie chance, Chippie started muttering to himself “ there we go…shock…another putt missed left. Yep , well done. Great effort.” I looked up to see Francesco smirking, trying not to laugh. Not at Chippie’s attempt, but at the self torture he was inflicting upon himself. However, by the 13th , he had pretty much tired himself out….”I canna moan any more… I’m burnt oot!!” He managed to rally with a couple of late birdies, to shoot 70. One day to go, and on Sunday morning we were ready for a big last push to try and move up the field. To be fair to Paul (which I’m not very often) he was up for the challenge every day. Sunday was his best ball striking day of the week, but unfortunately, the golfing gods denied him again on the greens, and 71 was the result. We finished the week in 48th position, and actually stayed in 10th spot on the Race to Dubai by a comfortable margin. Thus the official season has come to end. Quite simply it has been a stunning season for Paul, with 9 top ten’s, including two wins, 2nd at the BMW PGA at Wentworth, 3rd in the World Matchplay and playing a huge part in the historic Ryder Cup victory in Medinah. It will be a very merry Christmas this year, with loads of memories to look back on. But before the clubs are laid to rest for the winter, we have the small matter of the Million Dollar Nedbank Challenge at Sun City in South Africa. What a way to end the year….