Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Thomas Aiken and the Rhino Revolution

I was pleased to meet Thomas Aiken during the 2011 Dubai World Championship, when he kindly signed my flag that I brought back from the 2011 Masters tournament (my review here and photo's here).  We chatted briefly – a nice fellow.  During the recent Volvo Golf Champions at the Links at Fancourt I was pleased to see him wearing a hat warning of the dangers of rhino poaching.  The hat was in support of the ‘Rhino Revolution’ (website here and Facebook page here).

As Thomas noted (here) when asked about his hat – he does not yet have a hat sponsor for 2012 and wanted to bring attention to the cause by wearing a hat that supports his foundation.  Thomas has established the ‘Thomas Aiken Rhino Fund’ to bring attention to the harm caused by rhino hunting.  He mentioned during the interview that he met Trevor Jordan of Jordan Properties, a friend of my mom, from whom he received the hat.

Rhino poaching is a huge problem for the South African game parks, with rhino horns apparently fetching up to USD 1 million.  My mom lives in Hoedspruit, South Africa (her website is here), and I own a vacant piece of land in the Balule Private Nature Reserve on the road between Hoedspruit and Phalaborwa.  We know firsthand the challenges faced to combat this growing problem.  I for one appreciate the efforts of all persons, Thomas Aiken specifically, to bring attention to this matter. 

On another note, in my predictions for 2012 (here) I support Thomas to play well enough in 2012 to make his first appearance at the 2013 Masters.  He is regularly a member of my European Tour Fantasy Team (my 2012 team is here), as he was when he won his first tournament on the European Tour in 2011, the Open de Espana.

BEST WISHES to Thomas for the 2012 European Tour season, and thanks to all persons involved in combating the rhino poaching problem.

Preview of the 2012 Golfing Year

The 2012 European Tour season is off and running, with three tournaments already having been played.  This week marks the start of the European Tour Fantasy League for 2012 (I have no idea why they choose to start the Fantasy League at the fourth tournament of the year, but that’s a whole different issue), with the first counting event being the Abu Dhabi Championship.  So with the ‘start’ of the new season in mind, I make my predictions for the year, including what I believe will and will not happen, and what I would like to see during the 2012 golfing season.

What I would like to see in 2012:

o    Ernie Els qualify for The Masters.  As of today, he is ranked 57th in the world and has not yet qualified for The Masters.  I would then like to see him go on and win the green jacket, securing lifetime exemption at The Masters.
o    And how about Ernie winning the US PGA in August to make it a career Grand-Slam?
o    Thomas Aiken play well enough to end the year inside the top 50 in the world, and qualify for the 2013 Masters
o    A major victory by Luke Donald and Lee Westwood
o    A victory by Team Europe in the Ryder Cup
o    A clean sweep of the majors by members of the European Tour
o    A return to form by Tiger Woods – his presence is always good for the game
o    At least one major victory by a South African during 2012

Predictions for 2012:

o    Winner of The Masters:  Alvaro Quiros, otherwise Rory McIlroy
o    Winner of The Open Championship:  Thomas Bjorn, otherwise George Coetzee
o    Winner of the Ryder Cup:  Team Europe, by a victory margin of two points
o    Winner of the 2012 Race to Dubai:  Rory McIlroy
o    World Number 1 at the end of 2012:  Rory McIlroy
o    There will only be one US winner of a major this year, as was the case in 2011
o    2012 will not be the year that either Luke Donald or Lee Westwood wins their first major
o    Thomas Aiken will play well enough in 2012 to move into the Top 50 in the world, and qualify for the 2013 Masters
o    George Coetzee will play well enough in 2012 to move into the Top 50 in the world, and qualify for the 2013 Masters
o    George Coetzee will win his first tournament on the European Tour
o    Tiger Woods will win just one tournament worldwide in 2012

Here’s hoping for another enjoyable year on the European Tour.  I look forward to working again as a TV scorer for the 2012 DP World Championship, Dubai at the end of the Race to Dubai.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Visa Infinite Golf Day

I was fortunate to be invited to attend the Visa Infinite Golf Day, held at the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club on Thursday, January 19.  This was the second annual Visa Infinite Golf Day, and the first that I have attended.  The event was exceptionally well organized and well attended by golfers of all abilities.  There were numerous on-course competitions, including closest to the pin on the Par 3’s, longest drives on various holes, straightest drive on one of the holes, as well as ‘Beat the Pro’ on two holes.  Prizes were awarded to the top eight players, with the top two qualifying to play in the Emirates Airlines Invitational golf tournament on 30 January – what a fantastic prize.

Tee markers were exchanged for Visa Infinite logos, professional photographers were around the course to take photo's of the participants, and refreshment stations were in abundance around the course, making for an excellent day of golf.

Following the tournament, players had the opportunity to play ‘Beat the Pro’ against European Tour player David Howell.  David would play one wedge shot from the clubhouse to the 18th green, following which the guests would play two shots to the same hole.  If the guest’s ball was closer they would be entered into a lucky draw to win tickets to attend the Emirates Airlines Invitational Gala Dinner.  Only four players managed to beat David – I bet the person who won is really looking forward to the Gala Dinner on January 30 – what an opportunity.

It would not be an understatement to say that the Visa Infinite Golf Day is the best corporate golf day that I have attended, and I have been fortunate to attend quite a few in recent years.

A special thanks to Visa for sponsoring the event, to the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club for hosting the event, and to Emily Howell for arranging the event.  I look forward to taking part in the golf day in 2013.