THINK YOUNG, PLAY HARD

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - News - In­ter­viewed by Barry Havenga

Bran­don Stone earns a Euro­pean Tour card.

ON THE LUCK­I­EST BREAK OF HIS CA­REER

Head­ing into the fi­nal round of the Chal­lenge Tour’s Grand Fi­nal in Oman, I was T-6 and pro­jected 16th on the fi­nal Or­der of Merit.The top 15 earn (Euro­pean Tour) cards. I got a fast start (4-un­der through 7) and ar­rived at the par-5 12th tied for fourth. I hit a hor­ren­dous pull-hook off the tee which fin- ished on the ad­ja­cent beach, and my whole year seemed like it would un­ravel with that one shot. How­ever, be­cause it was low tide, I was able to climb down the fiveme­tre high cliff on to the beach and hit a 6-iron back up to the fair­way. I saved par, and had six more pars to shoot 68 and take sixth place, which was just good enough. Had I shot 69 I would have fin­ished 16th on the Or­der of Merit.

ON TRAV­EL­LING WITH A SOUTH AFRICAN PASS­PORT

I have spent a small for­tune on visas the last two years and travel with three pass­ports full of visas that are still valid! I paid £1 000 for a 10-year UK visa, but a three-month Shen­gen visa still costs $300. One ad­van­tage of liv­ing near Pre­to­ria is that I go per­son­ally to the em­bassies to ap­ply, which def­i­nitely helps. One has to be very diplo­matic and friendly. For some rea­son South Africans were de­nied visas to play in the Kaza­khstan Open in Septem­ber. Dean Burmester, Oliver Bekker and my­self had to miss out on one of the most lu­cra­tive events of the year. Haydn Por­te­ous was able to play

be­cause he trav­els on a Bri­tish pass­port.

ON THE COSTS OF PLAY­ING A FOR­EIGN TOUR

Just one week on the Euro Chal­lenge Tour is go­ing to cost a min­i­mum of €700 to €800 (R10k-12k), com­pris­ing your ac­com­mo­da­tion, car hire, cad­die and meals. I fly Air France as much as I can be­cause they don’t charge ex­tra for golf bags. I paid R7 500 in ex­cess bag­gage charges on a two-leg re­turn trip to China via Dubai. I’ve worked out that 28th po­si­tion on the Chal­lenge Tour is the break-even mark. By fin­ish­ing 14th this past year, I’ve prob­a­bly made about €12 500 (R188k) profit.The dif­fer­ence be­tween the Euro­pean and Chal­lenge Tours is mas­sive. I earned €15 480 for sev­enth place in Madeira (Euro­pean Tour) in Au­gust, and two weeks later was sec­ond in Fin­land on the Chal­lenge Tour to make €12 325.To say I’m re­lieved to now have my Euro­pean Tour card is the un­der­state­ment of the year!

ON MAIN­TAIN­ING RE­LA­TION­SHIPS WHILE ON TOUR

I re­ally do try and see as much of the places we travel to as I can, but it’s not easy. Pro­fes­sional golf is not the lux­u­ri­ous life peo­ple per­ceive it to be.You ar­rive for a tour­na­ment on a Monday morn­ing and head straight to the course to map it out for the week. In­vari­ably it’s an early night, then up at 6am for gym, fol­lowed by a prac­tice round and then time on the range. Early din­ner, in bed at 8pm, up early for the Wed­nes­day pro-am, which will be a 5½-hour round. The tour­na­ment hasn’t even started and I haven’t yet spo­ken to any­one back home! My girl­friend the last five years,An­nette, is an ab­so­lute saint for un­der­stand­ing and

ac­cept­ing my life­style.

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE OF TRAV­EL­LING

Life on tour is not all work and no play though. In Europe I travel with Dutch­man Daan Huiz­ing and we’ve had some cool ex­pe­ri­ences, from dune-bash­ing in Dubai – in a 450 horse­power Ford Rap­tor – to clay-pi­geon shoot­ing in Rome. My dad trav­elled with me to the Grand Fi­nal in Oman, which was ter­rific sup­port dur­ing a high-pres­sure event.The Omani Rial pig­gy­backs on the US dol­lar and we could only laugh when the din­ner bill ar­rived one night in Mus­cat for a small steak, burger, two beers and a coke: R1 500!

ON AM­A­TEUR GOLF IN SOUTH AFRICA

We are so blessed with the weather and cour­ses in which to learn the game and progress as an am­a­teur in South Africa. How­ever, an elite player can reg­u­larly win tour­na­ments on 15-un­der here, but when he goes over­seas to com­pete (mostly in the UK) it’s a com­pletely dif­fer­ent ball­game. He’s not used to the cli­mate and course con­di­tions, the com­pe­ti­tion is much stronger and our weak cur­rency pre­vents a lengthy stay. It’s so dif­fi­cult to play else­where in the world, and that’s one of the main rea­sons why so many am­a­teurs go to the Sun­shine Tour Q School ev­ery year.What else are they go­ing to do?

STONE-COLD-STUN­NER

Bran­don Stone birdies the 71st hole of the Cape Town Open en route to vic­tory at Royal Cape.

FA­THER FIG­URE Em­braced by dad Kevin, who fin­ished T-44 in the Cape Town Open.

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