THINK YOUNG, PLAY HARD
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.