SOUTH AFRICA TRIP – November 2017From our Vice Captain, Simon Grigor
14 intrepid GCGB members, and one guest, assembled by the Indian Ocean in early November for this year’s International Competition. In a departure from previous years, the group were not heading to the USA, but instead to the Zimbali Resort, a 5-star development to the north of Durban, South Africa.
Kate had got together with Golf Escapes and Gilt Edge Travel to do us proud with luxury accommodation, and after sleeping off the long journeys from the UK, the group assembled on Day One for the Team Competition at the Zimbali course. There were some very challenging holes, with most of the men struggling with the carries, over bushland, from the white tees. But when the cards were totted up, it was a male team that won, namely Hugh Sear, John Sear, Richard Whitehead and Peter Hickson with 71 points. Runners-up, just a point back, were the ladies’ team of Kate Brown, Anne Colbourn, Helen Street and Sue Emeny.
A trip into nearby Ballito that evening found a good Italian restaurant , and over a good few bottles of wine it was decided that those weedy men would be allowed to play off the ‘senior’, blue tees in future. But before the group were back on the Zimbali course there was an outing to the Durban Country Club for Round One of the Individual Competition. This was another very tough course, used for 17 South African Opens, and most of the scores reflected the severity. But there was one outstanding round: Peter Hickson scored 38 points to take the day’s prize. Second was Kate’s guest Richard Whitehead with 30 points.
The next day was a rest day from golf, but for 10 of the group it was up early for a trip to the Hluhluwe game reserve. Three of the ‘big five’ were seen (the two cat species hiding away for the day, alas) including elephants, water buffalo, white rhino as well giraffe and zebras. It was a long day but worth the early rise and 3 hour drive with our wonderful guide “Cyril” who enlightened us all with his knowledge of the Zulu battles, (we passed Rorke’s Drift where the famous Zulu defeat took place), South African politics and the local farming of sugar cane and eucalyptus.
It was back to Zimbali the next day for Day Two of the Individual event. Peter’s form wasn’t so good today, and it was Miles Williams who shot himself up the leaderboard with a fine 34 points to take the day’s honours. Runner-up was Ken Mock with 32 points.
Next up was a trip north to Prince’s Grant Golf Club. We’d seen little of the sun all week, unfortunately, but today (or more specifically late today) the weather turned very foul. Lightning was seen, thunder was heard, and though the Club did not force golfers to leave the course, some felt they were making a wise choice in doing so. But one of those who stayed out was John Sear, who plotted his way through the rain (for the heavens had now opened too) to 33 points, the winning score. He was followed by Richard Corke with 30 points. This was a stunning course with some amazing views of the Indian Ocean although the greens in poor condition – again very testing for the big hitters but more forgiving for the ladies.
The fourth and final round of the Individual contest was back at Zimbali. With competitors able to drop the worst of their three rounds, it got some (though not all!) back in serious contention for the big prize. Although it remained windy, the sun was now seen and it was probably the most pleasant round of the week. Richard Whitehead won the day with a 34, with Hugh Sear second with 32. Today we also had some ‘spot’ prizes. Men’s longest drive was Simon Grigor, Linda Rich winning the same for the ladies. Alas no lady won their nearest-the-pin, but Hugh Sear won the men’s prize.
So, to a superb buffet dinner that evening at the Zimbali Resort, and presentation of the honours. Fourth place was Ken Mock, beaten on countback to third by captain Nigel Smith with 84 points. Second was Richard Whitehead with 89 points but coming in first was Miles Williams with a best three rounds score of 95. Miles reflected that only a year ago in Arizona he had been close to bringing up the rear of the group, so a lesson to all that ‘your day will come’. And, on a personal note, it was 19 years previously that Miles’s partner, Linda Rich, a stalwart of the overseas trips, had won the same trophy.
A couple of the group had found that all that golfing wasn’t enough to quench their thirst for exercise. The Zimbali tennis courts saw Alan Strickley beat Simon Grigor 6-2, 6-1 on the Thursday evening, repeating the process (by exactly the same score) on the hot Sunday morning. And Simon took the hotel’s BMW limousine to the Ballito 5km park run first thing on Saturday morning, and astounded himself by finishing ninth out of 259 runners!
Finally, a golfing wildlife note. The vervet monkeys were in abundance, and though they looked very sweet and innocent, they were very clever at raiding golf buggies while their golfers were on the greens. Peter Hickson lost a (unopened – not for long!) packet of nuts at Durban; but the monkey there who took a new sleeve of Callaway balls from Nigel Smith probably got more than he or she bargained for! And as for the one at Zimbali who took, and ate, one of Helen Street’s paracetamol – do monkeys get headaches?
Thank you, Kate, for all your hard work in organising a super week, and thank you fellow golfers for your friendship and good company.