If you cast your eye over the golfing schedules at this time of year, the venues read like the exotic wishlist of a golfer with time – and money – on his or her hands: Bahamas, Doha, Qatar, Dubai, Oz coming up……….sounds heavenly!
It set me thinking back to my own forays into the exotic some 20 years ago when playing the Asian Tour. A stray thought popped into my head and, not really believing it could be accurate, I went and rummaged in the nether regions of a very old filing cabinet. And blow me, there it was – a folder marked “Asia Correspondence” stuffed with faxes (remember them?) and notes chronicling the tournaments, travel, sights and sounds of a unique and very challenging run of tournaments, our very own “Asian Swing”.
We started off in Taipei, moved on to Manila, then Bangkok, KL and finally Indonesia. “Gosh, it was great fun, wasn’t it?” I mused to myself as I settled down to leaf through this stash of memories. The following jumped out at me instantly and is an extract from a fax to Patricia, sent from The New World Hotel in Manila.
“I’m not happy – I’m playing badly. I can’t stand mucking about like this. This was my day – up at 5.00am, on bus at 6.00am, arrive at club at 7.00am for my 10.25 tee off. Didn’t get started till 11.00 – we were last off in a fourball. Off course at 4.30pm (it blew a gale from 10.00am onwards), back on bus at 5.00. Arrived at hotel at 6.15 and the same timetable to look forward to tomorrow. Remind me to never, ever consider doing this again.”
Hmm, methinks I detect a bit of a “poor me” attitude there. I HAD forgotten the awful travel arrangements, however. The courses were usually a minimum of an hour away from the tournament hotels and, no matter your tee-off time, you had to catch the provided transport and all travel together to the course. It was considered too dangerous to do otherwise. It did, however, mean that every player was at the course all day every day for as long as play was taking place.
And then, another reminder of the travel we endured between tournaments. Here’s another extract from another fax on the occasion of leaving the first tournament in Taipei: “Because Thai Airways are part sponsors of the tour we flew to Manila via Hong Kong and Bangkok with an overnight stop at the airport there – a total of 18 hours travelling. And, wait for it, a direct Taipei/Manila flight is ONE hour!!!”
Ah yes, it was pretty grim, come to think of it. But we did have some deliciously exotic and interesting food – didn’t we? Cue another fax extract, this time to my niece, Emily, from The Ambassador Hotel in Taipei.
“Last night we had a big dinner hosted by the sponsors. It was fifteen courses of Chinese food, most of it inedible, with things like sea urchins, which are like big fat worms. Half of the stuff we couldn’t recognise but it was fun experimenting.”
That was written during the first week of a five-week tour. In week five I found this entry in my notes: “Boy, I can’t wait to get home and have a decent steak and a bottle of good red wine. I don’t want to see a grain of rice for a year!”
All this leafing through old notes and faxes has made me wonder if my 2017 specs just happen to be a very strong prescription of the rose-tinted variety? It was certainly an arduous tour and it was essential to acquire a degree of resilience. Your time was not under your control, so routines and attitudes had to be adaptable and fluid. But, heck, it WAS great fun. I saw escalators on a golf course for the first time in my life and on the few days we did manage some sightseeing a whole new cultural world was laid out before us.
And I’ll never forget the surreptitious queuing outside the tournament director’s door at the end of the week to collect your winnings – all paid in US dollars and in cash. And how could you not enjoy spending time with a host of great players and friends? Many of them notched their first wins in Asia before moving on to further success worldwide, thanks in large part to the experience gained and skills honed on the Asian Tour.
Now, where’s the TV remote so I can look at the golf in Dubai?