By Guy Hawthorne
Nothing could be further from the truth and only a very small percentage of players is lucky enough to have sponsors and no money problems.
For the majority, it is a constant battle to earn enough to meet the expenses incurred in travelling to tournaments and paying for accommodation and food.
Resourcefulness is key if a player is to survive or, indeed, thrive on tour and one player has that in abundance… Zimbabwean Ryan Cairns.
A regular on the Sunshine Tour, Cairns was at Zebula Golf Estate and Spa in Limpopo last week for the Vodacom Origins of Golf final presented by Samsung and for him and his coach/caddie father, Terry, there were no worries about accommodation during the three-day tournament.
The reason for this: Cairns earlier this year struck a deal with Maui, a Kempton Park-based company that rents out camper vans, and he and his fiancé (and sometimes his father when he is visiting from his native Zimbabwe) travel around the country from event to event in the four-sleeper camper van he has been given on a flexible loan basis.
“There are a few guys with sponsors, which makes it easier for them, but for 97 percent of us it’s a struggle. It’s tough because you need to make R180,000 a year even before you’ve paid your rent or anything else. That’s just travelling costs and accommodation on the tour,” explained Cairns.
“I decided to use some initiative and sent Maui an e-mail. I Googled motor home rentals in South Africa and they came up. I told them it was quite a popular way to travel in America for some of the players, like Jason Day, for example, and I asked them what they would think about a pro on the local Tour doing that. They asked me to go and see them so the next day I went in expecting to do a pitch and they said, the deal is done, here are the keys!”
Although other commitments prevented his fiancee, Engelize, from being with him at Zebula, she is a regular companion to Cairns on Tour and the couple have plans to set up a little business for her.
“Engelize travels to as many tournaments with me as she can. We have a cool idea for next year. She’s a pharmacist but she’s not crazy about that line of work so wants to do a food truck. She’s mad about cooking so she wants to start the food truck and so when we are in a spot where I’m playing in a tournament, she’ll sell to people,” said Cairns.
“Luckily, Engelize is very efficient and plans our trips so we always end up at nice camp sites. Everything is planned in advance. Thank goodness for her or I don’t know where I would end up.
“Every camp site we drive into, everyone is so friendly. They all greet us and the vibe is just great. Until now, I didn’t know what they meant when they talked about ‘happy campers’.”
Although the camper is small, Cairns says he has never felt cramped, even when he has a ‘full house’ with his dad and Engelize.
“I never feel claustrophobic or uncomfortable. In fact, if my dad or Engelize is driving I sit at the little table behind the driver’s seat and do some work, like answer e-mails and that sort of thing. It’s like being in a home except you are actually moving somewhere. And if you’re tired you can sleep on the bed at the back. It’s really comfortable… I really enjoy it.”
Cairns is hoping to expand the pool of professionals living in camper vans and has come up with an idea to develop the concept into a business.
“We have an opportunity next year to do some chaperone golf tours, where a golf pro will chaperone two or three amateurs in each camper,” he said.
“A lot of my fellow pros are very keen on that idea as it’ll give them a bit of extra cash. It’s a cool thing. You go away for three nights and get paid each day and you get to meet and hang out with cool guys.
“I want the amateurs to live like the pros would live on tour. You don’t have your credit card that you can just swipe. You have a budget and you have to buy your food and other essentials. In other words, you have to go to the local supermarket and check prices and chip in for a braai pack and that sort of thing.”
The deal Cairns has with Maui is on a trial basis at the moment but he hoping to make it a more permanent arrangement.
“I want to do this for as long as I can,” he said. “It’s embodying the journeyman pro lifestyle and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“I’d rather make less money and do this than more money and hate doing my job every day. If I had the means, I would buy one of these and just live on the road.”