Knysna - In an extraordinary achievement, Zimbabwean Marc Cayeux shot a one-under-par 71 on Friday to make the cut in a professional tournament for the first time in seven years.
He was playing in the Vodacom Origins of Golf Final at Simola Golf and Country Estate.
Cayeux was severely injured in a motor accident in Zimbabwe in 2010, and, after 27 surgeries leaving his left foot all but completely re-attached to his leg which was now shorter than before, it seemed a promising career had been cut short.
But, battling his way through pain and frustrating setbacks, he re-joined the Sunshine Tour in 2017, and, almost inevitably, missed the cut five times in five tournaments. Until yesterday’s opening six-under-par 66 paved the way to his second-round 71 and the certainty that he would be teeing it up in the final round of the R750 000 tournament.
“It’s been amazing. To make the cut is another box ticked, even though I never had any goals for the first year coming back,” he said.
“It’s been a tough seven years, so, on my first year back, I had no expectations. I just basically tried to get back into the swing of things and learn all over again, even though the mind knows what to do, the body just doesn’t. It’s a physical challenge for me. Going through rounds is what’s required and mentally blocking out the pain.
“Just to shoot 66 in the first round was great. It was a mixture of ‘I’ve finished 18 holes’ because it’s a tough walk, and ‘I’ve managed to shoot 66!’ which was a bonus. Coming out today was another challenge of managing the pain. I didn’t putt so well today but I could have shot 90 and I would have been happy because now I’ve done 36 holes on a tough walking course. So it’s coming right and it’s proving a point to me that I can accomplish things that I believe in. And I can achieve goals that I want to set for next year because I feel I can compete.”
The nine-time winner on the Sunshine Tour is certainly competing, even though his 36-hole total of seven-under-par is nine off the blistering pace set by Jaco Prinsloo.
“The biggest challenge for me is executing a shot I know I can play, but the pain stops me,” he said.
“I still see shots that I used to hit. Facing the fact that I can’t quite hit them yet is a tough thing. Don’t say to any golfer, ‘You can’t hit that shot.’ They’ll try all day to hit it! I believe I can hit those shots and I’m going to keep trying to hit them, even though I feel a lot of pain on the last four holes generally. I have to take that into account and start hitting smoother shots.
“I’d love to go and hit balls now and work on the game still. But I’m limited in what I can do because of the pain. So now I’m going to go home and put the foot on ice, chill, wake up tomorrow and mentally prepare for another round.”
An important component of his remarkable recovery has been the presence of his wife Jana and his two sons.
“My wife and boys have been with me on this journey every step of the way,” he said.
“My wife has been my rock. I wouldn’t be here without her and the boys. Having the kids along has been great. Jason, the youngest, never knew I could play golf. My eldest, Ross. Knows I can play. Now they can see me playing, which is great. I hope I can show them that you should never give up on the things you want to do in life.”
He has lived through enough to dampen his own expectations for the final round on Saturday.
“Tomorrow’s a reward,” he said.
“It’s hard to enjoy with the pain. It’s about blocking it out. Seven yours ago, you would have said I wouldn’t be on a golf course again, so I’m going to soak it all up no matter what I shoot tomorrow. It would be nice to have a good round but I know now that what I need to work on is pain management.”
It’s easy to be detached and see the glaring life lessons from Cayeux’s journey. But it’s impossible to not be affected by the tears that he and Jana shed in each other’s arms after he made the cut.
And it’s impossible to wish them a very happy glow from the expensive bottle of Ernie Els wine they have been keeping to celebrate this very achievement.
“Whatever you want to do in life, you’ve got to stay focused on it, believe you can do it and commit to it,” he said.
“It’s easy to sit back and relax and say, ‘No, I can’t.’ My whole mindset changed two years ago. Everyone has a New Year’s resolution which never lasts past the first month. Mine was to say ‘Stop saying I can’t,’ and start saying ‘I’ll try.’ If you try, a lot of things do come right.”
And now, it’s impossible not to dream that he may hoist a trophy again one day.