Marc Cayeux wept on Thursday after he completed his first competitive round on the Sunshine Tour after more than five years away from the game brought on by a head-on collision with a police truck in 2010. He carded a two-under-par 70 in the opening round of the Golden Pilsener Zimabwe Open at Royal Harare Golf Club.
The accident claimed the life of the policeman driving the truck and Cayeux, then 32, suffered dreadful injuries that required 27 operations and hours of physical therapy just for him to get back to his feet. All that bore fruit as he made five birdies, a bogey and a double-bogey, leaving him five shots off the early pace set by Louis de Jager and Mark Murless.
“It’s been five-and-a-half years of trying to get back to this sort of level,” said Cayeux afterwards. “It was quite a nerve-wracking first tee shot and luckily I found the middle of the clubface. I hit it on the green and I three-putted. So I said to myself the bogey would get rid of the nerves, and there are 17 holes to try and make birdies.”
And as he spoke, the enormity of all he has gone through and all he has achieved sank in, and he wept. “Where’s that ambulance now?” he joked with the TV crew interviewing him. “What are you guys doing to me?”
And as he did when he dropped that shot on his opening hole, he gathered himself again. “I turned one-under,” he said. “I said to myself that the back nine is the tough nine and I just tried to play percentage golf. A couple of putts dropped, I hit it steadily and straight – not long.
“And then on 16, I approached it as an automatic three-shot par-five. I didn’t commit to it and tried to get too greedy on the lay-up. I tried to recover from the mistake but it just didn’t quite happen,” he said of the double bogey he made there.
“I tried to finish well, but if you’d said before the round that I could have a 70, I would have taken it in a heartbeat,” he added.
While five shots off the lead seems like a yawning chasm after just one found of the 72-hole tournament, there was much to keep him motivated – if ever a man as determined as he needed motivation.
“I’m going to take as much as I can from this round,” he said. “My goal this week was just to make the cut. I’ve got another round to do that tomorrow, but for me, with what I’ve been through, I’m just happy to be here.
“There’s a lot more hard work ahead, and I’m looking forward to the next eight months of working hard in the gym, getting fitter and stronger and walking more rounds of golf.”
For the 38-year-old, with memories of nine Sunshine Tour titles, there must be thoughts of a 10th victory. Maybe not this week, but soon.