By Michael Vlismas
He had a 4.30am start to his 32nd birthday, and Frenchman Francois Calmels celebrated with a seven-under-par 63 in the opening round of the €1-million Nelson Mandela Championship presented by ISPS Handa.
For a man who two years ago almost had his career ended in a freak accident with his dog, Calmels didn’t mind the seven-hour delay brought on by heavy overnight rain and a waterlogged course at Mount Edgecombe Country Club.
The delays may mean Calmels has an entire day off on Thursday if there are any further delays. And he says he may spend it sightseeing. It’s the relaxed attitude of a man who almost lost every finger on his right hand and with it a career of which much was expected following some distinguished amateur achievements.
In 2011 Calmels stepped into a lift with his beloved husky Shaft. But as the doors closed, his dog ran out. Calmels was caught with the leash in his hands as the lift went up, dragging his dog by the neck. With the dog about to be strangled as the lift was passing the first floor, Calmels wrapped the leash around his hand to try and snap it. He did, but it cut his fingers to the bone and almost severed them.
He was out of the game for four months and was fortunate to make a full recovery, going on to win twice on the Challenge Tour in 2013 and secure his European Tour card for the 2014 season as he finished inside the top 15 on the Challenge Tour.
A fast start to the 2014 Race to Dubai at the Nelson Mandela Championship would be handy for Calmels.