It’s not usually my job to do the tips around here but since I’m keen on recycling and my friends and family, with more than a hint of sarcasm, call me the eco-warrior, I’ve decided to match Mo’s tip with one of my own: plastic bottles are not trash.
That’s the slogan on the side of the collection skip at the local tip, which we’ve been visiting regularly, depositing bags of plastic, including bottles and lots and lots of bottles of the glass variety, an inevitable consequence of a load of wine drinkers visiting an area awash with vineyards, cellar doors and wine shops selling at cellar door prices. If people are going to put all that hard work and expertise into producing something delicious, it would be rude for a visitor not to have a taste.
We were directed to our particular tip by a woman at the Saturday market who helps local women make a living from old plastic bags. The women crochet them into baskets of all shapes and sizes and it’s hard to believe that the lovely stuff they produce started out as rubbish. The Plastic Project aims to transform trash into treasure, gives the women an income and any excess goes towards a feeding programme for disadvantaged children.
One of the things I love is how endlessly creative people are here, with artists and crafters making use of anything and everything that comes to hand. You’ll find bracelets and earrings (no, I haven’t added to my collection yet) made from safety pins; marvellous, multi-coloured heads of rhino, elephant and kudu made from drinks cans; place mats made from old crisps packets; giraffes made from papier-mâché and painted in gaudy colours; not forgetting the amazing jewellery made from little pieces of ostrich egg, painstaking work to the outside eye.
We had a road trip before this week’s golf and headed east for a couple of days, along part of the Garden Route. We stayed at the very different towns of Oudtshoorn and Knysna, getting some idea of just how vast and varied the country is but always with mountains, mountains everywhere. We passed through George, Ernie Els territory and saw the signs to the fabled Fancourt and to George GC, one of the oldest courses in the country.
There was no room for golf clubs on this jaunt but we had brought our bathers and had a dip in the Indian Ocean at Victoria Bay on the stunning (that word again) coastline just south of George. On the way home we made a stop at Mossel Bay, where everyone assumed we’d come off one of the cruise ships. How could they have known that Mo would rather walk the length of Africa than spend time on a boat, no matter how grand and stable? It’s all she can do to get on the Holyhead to Dublin ferry and she will NEVER, EVER, EVER set foot on the Scillonian again, having had to take it from Penzance to the Isles of Scilly because it was too foggy to fly from Land’s End.
Anyway, back to the golf. We did see a sign to Mossel Bay GC, whose most famous son is Louis Oosthuizen, Open champion in 2010. He’s also been runner-up in all four major championships, perhaps not the Grand Slam he’d dreamed of but quite a feat nonetheless. We gave a wave and carried on.
We hadn’t been watching any television or listening to the radio, so we were shocked to see charred bush and lots of smoke as we approached the Franschhoek Pass, a few spectacular miles from our digs.
There were helicopters trying to douse the flames and fire fighters trying to cope with difficult terrain and fires that were hard to get at. Families of frightened baboons gathered at the side of the road and a couple of the babies were lucky to dive out of the way of a truck negotiating the bends at speed. The driver gave a blast on his horn and the baboons all survived that encounter at least. The heat and the wind have made it difficult to control the fires and there’s a red halo around the peaks at night.
So far, in the town, life goes on, albeit with a wary eye towards the hills and the smell of smoke in our nostrils.
Golf of the week was at Pearl Valley, where one of our number was making her debut. Mo was hors de combat because of her back and Gillian took the money with a spectacular birdie three at the 8th, our 17th hole. A warning to all those looking to take her on at Castle Stuart this summer – make sure you get plenty of shots. We were just sorry that Geoffrey Boycott, whom we’d bumped into at the halfway house and who had given us the benefit of his advice, was not there to see the coup de grace.
The Scots are on my mind – for lots of reasons. We (Ireland, that is) managed to beat them in the rugby last weekend, which cheered us up no end having been very disappointing against England. And then last Sunday there was David Law winning the ISPS Handa Vic Open, Down Under, at 13th Beach Golf Club, near Melbourne – his first ever European Tour win early in his rookie season.
I first became aware of David Law round about 2010. He was an obvious talent and had at that stage already won the Scottish Boys and was on his way to annexing a second Scottish Championship. And then came a decidedly big bump in what had, to that point, been quite a smooth road. He was overlooked for the 2011 Walker Cup – and to rub salt into the wound it was to be played at Royal Aberdeen. It was a controversial admission, seemingly vindicated when GB&I managed to beat their American counterparts by 14 matches to 12. That must have rubbed more salt into the wound. That US side was dripping with talent, too, – Jordan Spieth, Patrick Cantlay, Peter Uihlein, Harris English and Russell Henley were all showcasing their skills – to no avail.David Law was no part of that immense victory, but by this stage he had already been under the wing of Paul Lawrie, former Open champion and twice a Ryder Cup player, for a number of years. That support was crucial, as it would be to any young player. Having Lawrie as a mentor with his vast experience on tap is a dream come true for all promising young Scots players and it is difficult to think of any other Scottish player who has singlehandedly given so much back to the game in his home country.
Lawrie has achieved amazing things in his playing career, my own personal favourite being his performance in the 2012 Ryder Cup singles when he beat Brandt Snedeker 5 and 4 with the best figures of the day. But he is arguably on track to achieving even greater things with his Paul Lawrie Foundation, providing support to legions of young Scottish boys and girls coming through the ranks. It’s his own availability and accessibility to the players that means so much and makes the difference.But back to David Law. With Lawrie’s help he managed to put aside that Walker Cup rebuff and win a professional event, the prestigious Northern Open on the Scottish circuit, while still an amateur, and five years ago he made his way on to the Challenge Tour. According to Law you need to finish in the top 20 or thereabouts in the end of season rankings to be able to make a living. His best end of season ranking in his first four years was 60th. That took him up to the end of 2017, a tragic year in which he and his partner (now fiancee) Natasha suffered the loss of a stillborn son. Life wasn’t good and it’s probably fair to say that on the golf side of things it was all looking a little dicey. Law admitted that he knew 2018 was always going to be a pivotal year – if things didn’t go well he was going to get a job over the winter and take stock.
And then came the SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels & Resorts at Aviemore. Admittedly it’s not a title to trip off the tongue with ease, but it’s one I’m sure that David Law will remember forever more. His first Challenge Tour victory propelled him to 14th spot in the end of year rankings and with that he bagged one of the 15 automatic cards on offer for the European Tour. Life changing and the fulfillment of part one of a boyhood dream.These are early days for the 27-year old Scot playing amongst the big boys. So far he has recorded two made cuts, two missed cuts and a victory. Apart from the welcome injection into the bank account, that victory secures him playing privileges for the next two years – job security, in other words, and it’s also the fulfillment of part two of that boyhood dream. He has now moved on to play his next event in Perth (the Aussie version) at the glorious Lake Karrinyup, a course where Gill Stewart, one of my Scottish fellow holiday makers and I represented Great Britain in the then Commonwealth Tournament back in the day. In fact, I believe there is a picture of that GB team still adorning the clubhouse walls somewhere!
I couldn’t be happier for David Law and Scottish golf – what a boost for them all, and there is some amazing talent in the wings. Expect more Scottish success in the next wee while.
Running concurrently with the men’s tournament was a women’s event for the same money. Great stuff – and an obvious way forward in the game for the women. France’s Celine Boutier won and this, her inaugural LPGA victory, will provide a similar springboard to her career as Law has received in his.There are a couple of things, however, that have made me EXTREMELY CROSS! One, the Ladies’ European Tour who have done the legwork for so long down in Oz, were unceremoniously superseded and elbowed out by the much more affluent LPGA, meaning the opportunities for LET members shrank enormously. And then, despite all our protestations that we haven’t got equal opportunities with the guys, the LPGA players don’t turn up!! Divot of the century to the LPGA.
See the bigger picture at least once in a while, please.
Meanwhile, let’s go Scotland!
All over the world golfers are being encouraged to attend meetings about the new rules, to learn how they’ll affect our day to day rounds and change our routines. There was one such meeting at Whittington Heath on Tuesday evening and I was sorry to miss it but sweltering in the summer sunshine in the southern hemisphere took priority. There are meetings here too but none of the dates has suited us so far.
Not that we’re feeling deprived or anything because we have our very own rules guru here with us and she’s on top of the world at the moment, having passed the exam that she sat just before flying out to South Africa for some much needed rest and recuperation. Referees have to be fit to tramp around at tournaments and keep their wits about them, hence the hiking poles and the London 2012 inspirational tee shirt and the undertaking of early morning treks in the mountains around Franschhoek.
It’s not a hardship really because the scenery is stunning and the light takes your breath away and it’s easier than playing golf in temperatures of close to 40 degrees.
Mind you, the downside of being on holiday with a couple of professionals and an about-to-be rules expert is that you can be in the swimming pool, contemplating nothing in particular apart from a very blue sky and a backstroke technique dimly remembered from a long-ago lesson in the swimming coach’s kitchen when snatches of conversation float in on the breeze: loose impediments; bifurcation; relief from divots; inconsistencies; slow play; equipment; suspending Sergio……and so on. If I pay attention, I should be quite knowledgeable by the end of the trip.
Under expert supervision my dropping from knee height is already showing signs of improvement and I’ve had a good tip to help improve my near non-existent shoulder turn on my backswing: Just imagine you’re reaching behind you for a glass of red…..Worked a treat on our back nine at Erinvale yesterday, though even I can be vaguely limber when it’s so hot the locals are contenting themselves with nine holes.
Before Pam had sat her exams in St Andrews the other three golfers on the trip added Pearl Valley to our South African play list. It’s a Jack Nicklaus creation, in a stunning (I defy you to come here and not over use that word) setting not too far from where we’re staying. We left early for our 0840 tee time and had such a quick, trouble free journey that Gillian and Maureen had plenty of time to hit balls while I had a bit of a mooch and took in the view.
The course was as immaculate as the surroundings bar an inordinate number of badly repaired pitch marks. If I ran a course in South Africa – or anywhere for that matter – I’d give every visitor a pitch mark repairer and a lesson in how to use it. It must deeve the life out of the greenkeepers.
Of course, we’re not just here for the golf, there’s a lot of wine – and beer – to be sampled and I like to remind myself of one of my favourite Harry Vardon stories. The six-time Open champion answered the door to a woman from the Temperance Society who was trying to persuade the great man to sign the pledge. He drew himself up to his full height and said, “Madam, I have never knowingly been beaten by a teetotaller. I bid you good day.”
So far we haven’t found a winery that we don’t like but we loved the friendly informality of Eikehof, a small, family-run affair just outside Franschhoek that is onto its fourth generation – and we liked the wine too, especially the merlot.
Lunch with Rae Hast, at Vergelegen, just across the road from Erinvale in Somerset West, was another treat. Vergelegen isn’t just about wine, the estate dates back to the early 1700s and you can learn about the cultural history of the Cape, including the slave trade and admire the stunning (that word again) surroundings and beautiful gardens. It’s worth a day or two of anyone’s time.
Finally, a quick congratulations to Jan Stephenson, who will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in June. Not before time. The Australian, whose life sometimes rivalled any soap opera, was glamour personified and an outstanding golfer, who won three major championships in the space of three years, culminating with the US Women’s Open in 1983. She helped found the Women’s Senior Golf Tour in 2000, now the Legends Tour and at the age of 67 still loves competing. Look her up, she really is worth reading about!