Steven Jeffress
Steven Jeffress

Some people think travelling is fun. Ultimately I don’t mind it, but like everything, too much of it and it becomes a grind. After my recent trip to Fiji, I flew into Brisbane at 9pm and had to get home, re-pack my bag for my three-week campaign in Japan and all in a time where I couldn’t even wash my clothes from Fiji as my flight was leaving early the next morning from Gold Coast Airport. I made the flight but things didn’t go as smoothly as I would have wished. The plane taxied out to the runway and then the Captain made an announcement saying that they needed to go back to the terminal so the engineers could check a small problem. Well, two hours later we were informed that the plane wasn’t going anywhere due to a two-inch crack in a window! So after standing in line for an hour, back home I went – I guess this is one of the joys of playing Professional golf!

The next day the flight went fine, which was relieving as we were going to arrive on Monday night, only just enough time for our Tuesday practice round at Shishido Hills, which is about 2 hours’ drive up from Tokyo. The event was the Tour Championship and is regarded as one of the “majors” on the Japanese Tour.

The course is one of the toughest we play all year, with hard greens, tight fairways and six-inch rough. In 2008 the cut at this event was 9-over, so that tells you how tough this course is. I opened with a 6-over-par 78 in the first round and needless to say I was not in the best position. I needed to fire the second day. Well, I would love to tell you that I did, but the second day was a lot like the first. I did, however, do something different late on day 2; I had what we call on tour “a moose”.  Yes, I recorded a 10 on Hole number 17! It was nearing the end of the day, I was a bucketload over par and was looking for a quick escape. Believe it or not, there were a few laughs walking to the 18th tee – and for the record I tried on every shot though, yes, I comfortably missed the cut.

Rather than heading back to Australia the following week, I spent some time up at Niseko, which is another two-hour drive up from Sapporo (top island in Japan). I played several different golf courses during the week preparing for the next event called the Sega Sammy in Sapporo. The Sega Sammy is known as the biggest purse that we play for in Japan, 200 million Yen (about 2.3 million Aus dollars). They look after us really well, with a great golf course and the owner of the course shouts all the professionals lunch in the restaurant every day of the event, which is nice change – a dollar saved is a dollar earned! I started solid with a couple of pars but then threw in a couple of double bogeys to turn the front nine in 6-over 42. After a bogey on the tenth I was 7-over after 10 holes, which was clearly not very good, especially when you have missed a few cuts in a row and needed a good finish.

I fought all the way home to finish with a 5-over 76, which had me sitting at the end of the field going into day 2. When I arrived at the course the next day, the conditions were great with a next to no wind at all. Unfortunately by the time I went to the range to warm up, all that had changed. It was now blowing about 50kph, which was not ideal for me as I knew that I had to shoot a low score to be around for the weekend.

The first four holes were all across wind, and after bogeying the 13th hole, I was 4-over for the day, 9-over for the tournament. Needless to say I missed the cut and flew home the next day. It was about this time I was thinking there must be an easier and less stressful way to make a living!

It was the last event before the re-rank. What is a re-rank? All the players that qualified at the Q-School after six events are re-shuffled again. So, for example, I got card 18 at the Q-School, but due to me not making much money on the Japanese Tour, my new number for the next six events is 46. This means that it will be harder for me to get into some of the next few events. In some events, number 20 gets in and some events number 50 gets in. It’s a harsh system but all you need to do is play well in the first lot of events and it’s happy days.

So I am back in Australia, playing two 4-round tournaments on the QLD Sunshine Tour before I head back over to Japan. I am hoping to pick up a win just to boost the confidence before I head back over, so I am hoping next month’s article I will have some better news!!

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