Dates: October 26th - 28th and November 2nd - 4th 2012
It's Saturday 20th October, I receive an email informing me that I'm 1st reserve for the Suzhou Open in China! I had already made plans and booked flights to play in the Crete Open on the Access Tour. At first I thought, well there's no way I have time to organise everything, the tournament starts on the 26th and I don't even have a Visa! After an evening of mulling things over, I decide to try and make the effort. This was crazy, I went into a complete panic, I didn't know where to start.
After various trips in and out of London, I finally collected my Visa on Wednesday morning and flew out to Shanghai in the afternoon. Thankfully I wasn't alone as Sahra, my tour buddy also had Visa issues and we organised to travel together. We eventually landed in Shanghai Pu Dong at about lunchtime on Thursday. I couldn't believe it when I stepped outside the airport. I'd heard that it was the most polluted city in the world, but it still shocked me to see how smoggy it was. You couldn't see a thing and the quality of the air was poor too, I found it really unpleasant to breathe! We had a car pick us up for the last leg of the journey: another 3 hours. It was awful. The driver kept the window open for the whole journey, I was breathing in car fumes and smog and to top it off cigarette smoke! I wanted to go home the moment I got into the car.
Moments after arriving in our hotel, I had received a message to say that I was no longer reserve and now playing in the tournament! This was the best news I'd had all day, and a huge relief too. However, our day hadn't quite finished. There were a few hours left of daylight, so we went to the golf club, where we were welcomed by men in uniforms who saluted us as we made our way up the drive, it was quite extraordinary, I felt like doing the royal wave! We then hit some balls and walked (jogged) the course. I also arranged to see Andy, the tour Physio, to help my body to recover from a stressful few days.
Friday: I couldn't believe we were teeing it up to play in the tournament after the day we had had. I woke up with a banging headache and trying to make a golf swing was peculiar. I couldn't feel the club head and I hadn't got a clue where the ball was going! We just told ourselves to do the best we could, don't expect anything and if we made the cut it would be a bonus. I struggled my way round but minimised the damage to +3. I wasn't displeased under the circumstances.
Saturday: Despite the 5am start, I felt ok. I needed some birdies. Having played relatively steady, I made an error at the most critical stage of the round, finding the water on 16. Somehow I knew I had to find a birdie to have a chance of playing on Sunday. I hadn't holed much all day, but I faced a 12 footer for a birdie on the last....I made it!
I'm not sure how, but both of us did in fact make the cut! I was over the moon. All that effort and stress getting there was worth it. Unfortunately, the golf didn't exactly improve in the final round, I was exhausted. I don't think the two consecutive 5 am starts helped much. What was good news, was that I had been given the go ahead for the next event in Sanya.
Following the final round, we had to catch our transfer to take us back to Shanghai for our flight to our next destination. We were due to fly at 9pm, but due to the recent typhoons in Sanya our flight was delayed by 3 hours! This was the last thing we needed. We didn't get into our hotel in Sanya until 5am! Shattered doesn't even come close to describing how we felt. We ended up missing most of Monday in fact, got up for some dinner then went back to bed. We definitely needed it, I almost felt human again!
Sanya was much more pleasant, 30 degrees and humid, it's known as the Hawaii of China.
Unlike the previous week, the grass here was very different, very coarse and stubborn, you only had to be slightly off cue and the ball was only going 60% of the distance! Which made life difficult if you weren't on top of your game.
Friday came round and presented a completely different challenge, the wind had got up and was extremely gusty. At least a 3 club wind. As I later discovered, hitting punch shots off this turf was virtually impossible. Despite coming unstuck on 16, I was relatively pleased with my score (74).
My warm up for day 2 began in the dark, with floodlights illuminating the range. Thankfully it was calm, or so I thought! I got onto the 11th (my second hole) and 'BAM' we were back to the gusty conditions of the day before. I was enjoying the challenge of the wind and I was playing well: -3 for my front 9, and -1 for the tournament. Sadly, things were about to unravel, my second shot into the difficult 2nd hole found the water. A poor chip followed by a 3 putt, put me right back to square one. I was beside myself. All that hard work gone in a flash. I was disappointed but at the same time, I had made the cut and I knew that I was still in a good position to finish strong.
Sunday: The frustration continued, for one reason or another I lost the ability to do anything! It was the most bizarre day, 3 lost balls, a sky, a few fat shots, some 'Len Goodmans' and god knows what else! I wanted the torture to end.
My China trip had come to a disappointing end, but all adding to the experience. I was very much looking forward to coming home. I had missed English food. I'd had enough of stewed turtle, pig trotter soup and noodles! You think I'm joking! Home time.......