The 2005/06 edition of the event, staged at the Fancourt Links in December 2005, is best remembered for the extraordinary duel that took place between Ernie Els and eventual-winner Retief Goosen. South Africa’s two big guns at the time were streets ahead of the pack on a treacherously difficult course, with the Goose’s 10-under total of 282 good enough to shade the Big Easy by a solitary stroke.
France’s Gregory Bourdy and Darren Fichardt were the only other players to finish in red numbers, with the duo eventually sharing third place on two-under.
It was breathless stuff, as Goosen birdied the final two holes to hold off the charge of Els, who played the last five holes in four-under par.
Hard as it is to believe though, there was another story to emerge from the other end of the field which put such theatre in the shade.
Englishman Shaun Webster, who at the time was playing in the event and is now manager of defending champion Morten Orum Madsen, recounted the remarkable adventures of his countryman David Dixon that week.
Webster himself fell foul to the blustery conditions and punishing layout, following an opening round of 84 with a 79 the next morning. Resigned to his fate, he went out onto the course to support Dixon, who was faring marginally better. But a messy 40 on the back nine appeared to end Dixon’s hopes of making the weekend, as he reached the halfway mark on eight-over par.
“I remember the wind really started to pick up around lunchtime,” Webster recalled. “I was obviously miles out of it, but I thought David might be in with a shout of making the cut. He was adamant he wanted to get out of there though, so we dashed off to George Airport to fly to Joburg, so that we could eventually get back to London by the next day.”
When Dixon and Webster departed the course, the projected cut after the second morning stood at four-over par. But, unbeknownst to the duo, the wind began to intensify at the Links, and in a matter of five hours, the cut line had blown from four to eight over.
“When we landed in Joburg that Friday evening, David switched on his phone, and I’ll never forget his face when he realised he’d made the cut. He was desperate to get back to George, but there were no flights available until the next day!
“Eventually Chubby (Chandler), who was his manager back then, managed to track down a car for him to drive back. By this time it was about six o’clock in the evening, and he was due to tee off at 7:30am the following day. But David jumped in the car and drove through the night for 13 hours to get there. I think he only got there 20 minutes before his tee time in the end!” Webster laughed.
Despite the frenetic circumstances that barely allowed Dixon to hit so much as a practice putt that Saturday, he made the extraordinary road trip worth his while, firing a two-under par 71 in the third round, which was also the eighth-lowest round of the day. He was unable to replicate such form on the final day, but a score of 76 was certainly no disgrace, and he eventually finished in a share of 31st place – good enough for a cheque of R61,296.
“The funniest part for me was that he’d actually given away his playing clothes to some of the staff there before we went to the airport,” Webster smiled. “I think all he had kept with him was his pants, so when he got back, he had to borrow an SA Open shirt from one of the officials! Anyway, I was impressed he played as well as he did after all that. I guess the cheque would have at least covered the cost of his petrol!”