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Richie Ramsay column: Returning from South Africa was the most frantic 24 hours I have encountered in a long time

Aberdeen golfer Richie Ramsay.
Aberdeen golfer Richie Ramsay.

My last competitive tournament of 2021 didn’t exactly go to plan.

I was playing the Joburg Open when it was announced South Africa was going to be put on the red list after the discovery of the Omicron variant.

We had already completed the opening round by the time the news emerged.

There was a lot of discussion between the players on whether to leave as soon as we could or stay and finish the tournament.

Ultimately, it came down to the individual circumstances of each player.

I made the decision to get back home as quickly as possible.

I could have played the tournament then went home via Dubai but I was concerned that could become difficult if other countries started putting South Africa on the red list too.

The worst-case scenario was the prospect of potentially missing Christmas with my family if I stayed in South Africa to play the upcoming events and then had to complete a mandatory hotel quarantine.

It was a non-negotiable for me as my daughter Olivia is so young and I didn’t want to risk missing Christmas with her.

Richie Ramsay was playing in the inaugural DP World Tour event in South Africa. 

Getting out of the country proved to be most frantic 24 hours I have had in a long time.

Before getting on the flight out of South Africa, we had to go to a testing centre to get a PCR test and despite it being 7.15am it was incredibly busy with a lot of people trying to do the same thing.

When I completed my test and got to the airport I had a sense of relief but there was also a nagging doubt in my mind that something wasn’t right.

Then it clicked. I carry two wallets on me and I had left my other wallet in the safe in my room at the hotel.

I phoned David and Vicky Drysdale as they were staying to finish the tournament.

His coach Jamie Gough was staying in the same hotel as me so he went and got my wallet and gave it to Vicky to keep it safe, which was a relief.

I was happy to get any flight I could out of the country – it didn’t matter where it was going.

In the end I flew from Johannesburg to Ethiopia and then to Sweden and then back to the UK.

It was the first time I had flown to Ethiopia – and it wasn’t until the flights were booked that someone told me there was a civil war going on there at the moment.

I was a bit nervous after hearing that but there were no issues at all. I was a bit surprised as the airport in Ethiopia had flights everywhere, including Washington, Toronto, Chicago and Dubai.

The tournament ended up being cut from 72 holes to 54 holes and then 36 due to the weather with Thriston Lawrence winning the inaugural event on the DP World Tour.

I know some of the guys who stayed and played the tournament were left with some very difficult journeys home.

It is a shame that the new season started that way as there was a lot of excitement about the upcoming year following the investment from DP World and the announcement of a packed schedule.

The European Tour had to stand their ground when a new competitor emerged, in this instance Greg Norman’s Saudi-backed golf series, and they have done that.

There is going to be a huge fight over the next two years to finalise everything while the players decide which tour they want to play on.

I’m not sure how it will play out. I believe the DP World Tour is a stepping stone towards an even greater world tour.

In five years’ time, I can picture the DP World Tour containing the best events in Europe, a swing in Asia, a swing in Australia and South Africa and a large swing of tournaments in America.

My thought process on that hasn’t changed but it will come down to who owns the broadcast rights – will that be Sky Sports, Amazon, Netflix or someone else – and how will those tournaments look?

Will it be 72-hole stroke-play or could it be match-play or even team match-play?

I think team match-play is something that needs to be looked at. Any player that has made it to the European Tour in the past 10 or 15 years always speaks fondly about playing in the six-man European Teams or the Home Internationals – or even their pennant days at their home clubs.

Every golfer cherishes those memories when it was less about the individual and more about the team.

I miss playing team golf and most players would like to see more team events on the schedule.