This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Grant Dodd at Guigal in Ampuis, Rhone.
ROAD LESS TRAVELLED
BY G R A N T D O D D
126 AUSTRALIAN GOLF DIGEST AUGUST 2003
Helsinki Harbour. In summer, it’s light well after midnight here.
A statue of Lenin. I like the juxtaposition of the sign – communism vs capitalism.
AUSTRIAN NATIONAL TOURIST OFFICE
Moscow Symphony Orchestra busking in the subway. They were unbelievable!
The town hall in Graz, Austria.
Editor’s note: Grant Dodd turned pro in 1992 and has career earnings of $400,000 on the Australasian PGA Tour. His lone tournament victory came on the Challenge Tour in 1999 at the Slovenian Open, so clearly Dodd has an affinity with Europe. Indeed, he’s expressed a desire to compete in the Tour de France. Here, Dodd tells the tale of his 10-week pilgrimage on the 2002 Challenge Tour. PGA Tour and its secondary tour, the Challenge Tour. Last year I had status only on the Challenge Tour, courtesy of a medical exemption for a couple of operations on my right knee. This exemption would enable me to play a fairly full season, barring a few of the bigger tournaments. The Challenge Tour is played mainly in continental Europe and is signified by two incompatible co-efficients: high expenses and small purses. Most weeks the prizemoney is in the region of 130,000 euros (about $A200,000 during my 2002 campaign) but the weekly costs are usually between $A2,500 and $A3,000, with some weeks even higher. A quick calculation shows that you have to finish in the top 20 most weeks just to cover costs and, given the ultra-competitive nature of the tour, you have to play some solid golf to do that. However, if you want to be a tournament pro, you have to have somewhere to play, and if the Challenge Tour is your only option, well, c’est la vie.
HE EDITOR APPROACHES ME AND SAYS, “I’d like you to write a piece about the life of a journeyman on tour.” Immediately I look around for the person he is talking to, only to find that the room is empty, save for us. Me, a journeyman? Surely you can only be called that when you are old? Oops, I’m 36 now. Gee that happened quickly. Doesn’t the term imply that you’re not very good, kind of like damning with faint praise? I retire to the players lounge to contemplate this new categorisation and fully absorb its implications. Perched in front of the TV, the commentator comes over the air with, “Here’s journeyman Englishman Barry Lane about to play his approach.” Barry Lane is in the top 10 all-time money-winners on the European Tour. Suddenly it’s all right to be a journeyman! The past few years I have been campaigning on the European
AUGUST 2003 AUSTRALIAN GOLF DIGEST 127
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED
WEEK 1 Austrian Open
I fly from Australia to London, catch a connecting flight to Vienna and then hitch a lift with Lee James (one of the English players) down to Graz, where the tournament is. The season is already half over and Lee, who has been on the Challenge Tour for as long as I can remember, is having a great year. He looks like getting his card for next year (the top 15 at the end of each season gain automatic promotion to the European Tour). I know Lee has been doing it a bit tough over the past few years and congratulate him on his success and on the joy of having a little extra cash in his pocket, only to find out that he signed over 80 per cent of his earnings for the year to a backer, just in order to get the money to have the opportunity to play. It’s a classic Catch 22 situation that a lot of guys find themselves in when they are trying to get started, but what is the alternative? . e centre of Graz Anyway, he is just happy to – overlooking th hlossburg meet Ed there on the Monday. I get a taxi from the train station and arrive at the hotel to find that it is in fact a backpackers hostel and, furthermore, there appears to be nobody around. No one is answering the doorbell and there’s no sign of Ed. Meanwhile, the taxi is waiting with the meter running, so I decide to take it back into town to have some dinner and try again later. After dinner, I return to the hostel at 9pm to find that it is still uninhabited. I wait for 10 minutes and decide my only option is to try the $300 a night place, which is on the other side of town. About $145 in taxi fares later, I finally find somewhere to sleep. Ed Stedman was the only I eventually run into Ed on the practice green at the Australian to win on the course the next day. I’m not Challenge Tour in 2002. too happy at being stiffed by him, however, my initial displeasure quickly changes to howls of laughter after hearing his story. His plane got delayed and, after a couple of hours in a train and some time on a bus, he ended up at the hostel be playing, as the alternatives are not really that attractive for a tour pro. I sleep pretty well, despite my jetlag, and head to the course on Wednesday to find that I am just flushing the ball in practice. Awesome. I decide I can’t improve on what I’m doing and head back to the hotel to rest up before the first round. The next morning, I wake up not feeling so good and I get progressively worse as the day unfolds and shoot 75. The following morning, my legs are like jelly and I can’t get out of bed, so I have to withdraw from the tournament. It goes without saying that this is a long way to travel to play just one round. I spend the next three days in bed, getting familiar with Austrian TV. I can say without fear of contradiction that skiing and motor racing are the staple diets of the Austrian sports fan. Not a memorable week, but onwards and upwards, as they say. about midnight. Someone let him in and he found his way to a room with a bunk about three feet wide. Exhausted, he got a few hours sleep in, only to be woken early by a cacophony of noise. Deciding to have an early breakfast, he goes outside to find that a busload of autistic children has checked in during the night and the place is going ballistic. Ed feels like an extra in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and, thinking that his accommodation may not fully meet his requirements for the week, he checks out and ends up at my hotel, in my room! As for the golf, I spent most of the week in bed again, played two rounds, shot a million and missed the cut. Obviously inspired by my company, Ed wins by a shot – a really great effort considering he was playing on an invite and had to win to get an exemption for the year. As a result, Ed gets into the big event (for 340,000 euros) in France the next week and I have to go to the smaller event in Germany.
WEEK 2 Danish Open
128 AUSTRALIAN GOLF DIGEST AUGUST 2003
It is a widely held perception that professional sport is a glamorous and exciting way to live your life, and in the vast majority of cases it truly can be. However, if I had to pick one day of my career that epitomised the antithesis of this mantra it would be the Monday travelling to the Danish Open. The journey begins in Graz with a taxi to the train station, followed by a three-hour train ride to Vienna, then a one-kilometre walk to a hotel for an overnight stay. I’m up early for a bus to the airport, followed by a two-hour flight to Helsinki, a two-hour wait in the airport, a 90-minute flight to Copenhagen and then a three-hour train ride to Horsens, where the tournament is held. The travelling is laborious, but add to the time factor the small matter of 55 kilograms of luggage and the fact that I am now coughing up the most vile green gunk I have ever seen and you have an altogether unattractive situation. It gets better, though. There were two official hotels for the week, one was $300 a night and the other $120. Fellow Aussie pro Ed Stedman and I booked into the cheaper one, sharing a room, and I arranged to
AUSTRIAN NATIONAL TOURIST OFFICE
WEEK 3 Galeria Kaufhof Pokal Challenge, Germany
This was a smaller event in Dusseldorf worth 90,000 euros and, in keeping with most of my experiences in Germany, very uneventful. The hotel is on the outskirts of town, there are no places to eat nearby so you tend to eat room service or at the golf course. The course is decent with thick rough, and there is some interest because Germany’s player of the moment, Alex Cejka, is playing to fulfil sponsor commitments. Golf is growing in popularity in Germany but it is still essentially the domain of the rich, this fact made even more obvious by the steady stream of BMWs, Mercs and Audis coming through the gate. I shoot 70-7170-71 for a 6-under total and 23rd place. I make 912 euros, minus 26 per cent tax. Needless to say, the ledger is in the red this week.
WEEK 4 Luxembourg Open
I catch the train from Dusseldorf to Luxembourg, which takes about four hours. Ed drives across from France and meets me at the station and we luck out in finding a great place to stay, right on the Mosel River. It’s really peaceful, comfortable and, strangely for Europe, quite cheap. The course is in great shape and sets up for low scores. I shoot 66 in the first round, but can’t keep up the pace for four rounds and end up at 12-under, after 66-73-7067, for 15th place. I’m starting to play really nicely, the only negative this week being that I was witness to, well, something I wish I didn’t see. The greatest Place d’Armes difficulty about in the city of Lu xembourg at du sk. finding yourself in this situation is that the consequences of inferring impropriety in golf are so great that quite often it’s the messenger who gets shot. I speak to Ed about it, we both agree that nothing can be gained out of taking it further, so I let it rest. I make 1,700 euros for the week, a small profit on my outlay.
Dusseldorf City Hall in Germany.
‘THE CHALLENGE TOUR IS SIGNIFIED BY TWO INCOMPATIBLE CO-EFFICIENTS: HIGH EXPENSES AND SMALL PURSES.’
longest hitters in world golf, a very talented player who just never seems to be able to put it all together in one package. He is also one of the maddest drivers I have ever seen, regularly hitting 180km/h in his Seat hatchback, a lot of the time driving with his knees! If I had any hair I would call it a hair-raising experience, other than that it was just plain scary. I manage to wrest the wheel from him for the last two hours of the trip and we make it there alive. The only other thing of note was the cost; the French motorway system is excellent but you pay for it. The trip cost us $160 in tolls, outrageous really but, again, what choice do you have? Down to business. I lead after the first round, shooting 65. I’m really excited about how I am playing. I continue to lead through most of the second day until I triple-bogey the 15th. I did get a little unlucky but there’s no room for drawing pictures on the card so, bang, I’m back in the pack again. I played nicely the last two rounds without holing much and end up 13th, 6-under par with rounds of 65-73-70-70. I make about 1,800 euros, another small profit for the week.
AUGUST 2003 AUSTRALIAN GOLF DIGEST 129
WEEK 5 Open des Volcans, France
My girlfriend Nikki came over to join me for a couple of weeks and arrived in Luxembourg on the Saturday. We had arranged to call each other on our mobiles, but unfortunately her carrier didn’t have roaming in Europe. Nor did she know where we were staying. All we knew was that she was catching the train from Paris and getting in about midday. A little concerned as to her whereabouts, we decide to drive the city streets and see if we can find her. This is an excellent idea as the city of Luxembourg has only 500,000 people and she should be easy to find! Believe it or not, we do find her, pulling her bags along the street, looking decidedly jetlagged and tired. I figure winning Lotto must be just around the corner given the odds I beat at this one. Anyway, we have to get down to Clermont Ferrand, which is about nine hours drive away, or, as it turns out, seven hours if you hitch a lift with Sebastian Branger. Sebastian is a young French guy on tour, about 6-foot-8 tall and weighing 115 kilograms. He would have to be one of the
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED
WEEK 6 Week off
I try to not play more than four weeks in a row and this made it five, so Nikki and I took a week to go travelling through the wine regions of the Rhone and Burgundy. It was great fun. I’m very passionate about wine so it was great to see and taste first-hand some of the great wines of the world. (There was more seeing than tasting, given the cost of good burgundy!) In a cosy little restaurant in Beaune we get engaged. Ohhhh. Just like the fairytale!
St Tropez on th e Cote d’Azur, Fr ance.
WEEK 8 Challenge Tour Championship, England
Chevaliers Montrachet, Cote de Beaune, Burgundy. Relaxing on the banks of the Rhone at a B&B in Condrieu.
WEEK 7 British Open qualifying
130 AUSTRALIAN GOLF DIGEST AUGUST 2003
We drive back to Paris, Nikki leaves to go home and I fly back to England. Ed has been home for a couple of weeks to recharge the batteries and he meets me at Heathrow. We hire a car and head up the west coast of England, on our way to Muirfield for the qualifying. On the way we play Hoylake and Royal Lytham & St Annes, two courses on the Open rota. It’s a good way to prepare, given that you don’t get to play many links courses in general, and these two are superb. Accommodation at Muirfield is at a premium and it takes us half a day to find anywhere to stay. My course for the qualifying is Luffness New, a very tight par 69 with only one par 5. I like it, but the bad news is that the R&A has dropped the number of spots this year to six at each course, down from 12 three years ago. The extra spots have now gone to players on the US PGA Tour. I made it into the Open in 1997 and ’98, but there is no underestimating the difficulty of the task now, given the reduction
Ed Stedman and I spent some time taking in the rare atmosphere of the British Open.
in spots. I shoot 1-over in the first round, meaning I have to go low in the second but I never really get it going and end up missing comfortably. Ed misses at his course too, so we spend a couple of days soaking up the awesome atmosphere of the Open and then head down to the south of England for the next tournament, the Challenge Tour Championship.
I arrive at the event to find that I am in fact the first reserve. And guess what? I wait around all week, including hanging around the putting green for eight hours on the Thursday, and don’t get a start. This is a long way to come to NOT play. I’m at a bit of a loose end until I get an e-mail from an American friend who lives in Moscow, saying, “I’ve bought a boat, come down and visit me in St Tropez.” Faster than you can say, “British Airways reservations, please,” I’m on the Cote d’Azur doing the best impersonation of an idle playboy that I can muster up. I’ve got the idle bit down pat; the playboy part may require a little more work, specifically a dramatic increase in the ratio of birdies to bogeys for the next 10 years or so. It’s a bit surreal actually, I can’t imagine anywhere on earth where you would find such ostentatious exhibitions of wealth as de rigueur. Anyway, it’s a lot of fun, there’s plenty of celebrity spotting to be done (Puff Daddy, Ivana Trump, Anna Kournikova etc.) and it’s a chance to see how the other half live, in person. What’s more, given the fact that I’m off to Helsinki next week, one of the most expensive stops on tour, this little sojourn has helped to desensitise me to the cost factor. I went to a nightclub in St Tropez where a beer cost $US25, which, even by European standards, is exorbitant.
WEEK 9 Finnish Challenge
This is one of the best weeks on tour. Helsinki in summer is a really happening place – it’s light until one o’clock in the morning and the city is really jumping. The nightclubs are overflowing with people out to have a good time and it’s often quite hard to keep your mind on the job here. There seems to be a gross over-supply of good-looking women, yet Finland has one of the highest rates of male suicide in the world. I figure they just get confused over which girl they want to go out with, and can’t deal with the pressure of the choice. Actually, I’m told it has a lot to do with the long, harsh winter and high levels of alcoholism, but enough of the sociology. The golf course is about 45 minutes out of town, in very nice condition, but cursed by three holes designed by the lovechild of Stevie Wonder and Helen Keller. This is the only way to account for the first, 11th and 16th holes, Nonetheless, I play quite well, shooting 69-70-74-68 for a total of 7-under par and a cheque for 1,400 euros. It’s a bit sobering to realise that I’m 31-under par for the past four weeks and I’ve made the grand total of 5,800 euros. One ordinary round each week, shooting just 1-over, is enough to blow you out of the water and I’ve done that three times. You can’t make a living on this tour doing that.
lsinki. cathedral in He Tuomio Kirkko
‘IT’S A BIT SOBERING TO REALISE THAT I’M 31-UNDER PAR FOR THE PAST FOUR WEEKS AND I’VE MADE THE GRAND TOTAL OF 5,800 EUROS.’
Moscow. The Kremlin in
WEEK 10 Russian Open
I’ve come here for the past four years. It sounds almost incongruous to say that you are playing a pro golf tournament in Russia, but this is the best event and best course of the year. The only 18-hole golf course in Russia to date is a Robert Trent Jones Jnr design carved out of a pine forest with water on about 12 holes. It is very good by anyone’s standards. It’s also one of the better prizemoney events, worth 186,000 euros, and the sponsors really look after the players as well. My friend Preston is out of town, but gives me his palatial apartment to stay in for the week, as well as his S500 Mercedes and driver to take me around! If St Tropez was surreal, I need to find a new word to do justice to this experience. I’m developing telephone number tastes on a postcode income and, I have to say, there is no pain in this at all! When the tournament begins, I manage to overcome the distraction of Preston’s friends wanting to take me out every night to shoot 71-71-71 in the first three rounds, only to back that up with a 75 in the last round to finish 45th. I make just over 1,000 euros in prizemoney.
t’s now time for me to go home. I’ve been in Europe for the best part of three months and I’ve had enough. I’ve actually played pretty well without having much to show for it financially, but that’s the fine line between success and failure in this game. In a world where one week makes a great year, you are better off firing up and winning once than churning out respectable, moderate sub-par totals each week. I made enough to keep a category for 2003, but whether it’s worth coming back in the future is the $64 question. It’s a good time, but at this stage of my career I need to be a bit more mercenary and look at the bottom line, and the Challenge Tour is not what one would describe as a “bottom line” place. q Footnote: Ultimately, Grant Dodd decided not to embark upon another Challenge Tour campaign in 2003, choosing instead to concentrate his efforts on the Australasian PGA Tour.
AUGUST 2003 AUSTRALIAN GOLF DIGEST 131
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.