Marc Cayeux © Sunshine Tour
He’s back at Royal Harare Golf Club to play in the 2017 Zimbabwe Open, and Marc Cayeux’s unbelievable return to tournament golf has moved beyond the emotional high of that opening round last year to become a journey of equal parts perseverance and frustration.
Last year, Cayeux carded an extraordinary opening two-under-par 70 and made the cut in his home open. This year, he is playing it on a medical exemption, and he will have to take emotion out of the equation when he tees off on Thursday. Now, playing tournaments is about finding a balance between expectation and reality.
“It’s nice to come and play here,” he said. “It’s home and I feel comfortable. I just wish the confidence was up. In a way, I’ve got to fake it to make it and pretend I’m playing well.”
Cayeux, who once lived in Harare, is playing in his seventh Sunshine Tour tournament since his vehicle was involved in a head-on collision with a police truck in 2010.
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 for more than five years just for him to get back to his feet, never mind playing golf.
And now, after returning to the Sunshine Tour where he was a nine-time winner by way of a sponsor’s invitation in Harare, he is back this time with five tournaments under his belt, and the start of a three-year medical exemption well and truly underway.
He kicked off his return to the tour at last year’s Alfred Dunhill Championship, and played in all the big summer events on the tour. “I didn’t play that well in the five events in the summer, but I know where I need to get my game to,” he said.
“In this first year back, I’ve got no expectations. I just want to try and get into the swing of things. Practising at the moment is a frustration. My brain remembers how I used to play. I see shots that I want to hit, but my body just can’t do it yet. It’s a process of going through all of this to find something that’s going to work.”
The problem is that Cayeux remembers what he used to be able to do. “I’d like to keep my game the same as it was, but I’ve got to face the fact that my body’s not the same,” he said.
“I’d like to think I’ll get it back to the way it used to be because then I’m going to be more confident and it’s going to push me further instead of sitting back and settling for this – and I think it’s less than it was before. But it’s a case of finding what I can do and then sticking with it and putting it into tournament play.
“There are a lot of young guys out here, new guys who hit the ball incredible distances. I used to hit it there, and I’m still trying to.”
Then there’s also the question of dealing with the pain he still feels. “The hard thing for me is to walk 18 holes,” he said. “I feel a lot of pain on the last six holes. So it’s a balancing act in the swing, assessing the pain levels so I know what I need to do to hit the shot that’s required.”
For any top-level sportsman, an essential ingredient for success is being sure of himself. And that’s what’s confounding Cayeux. “It’s finding a new me, basically,” he said. “It’s frustrating. I see all these guys doing what they do, and I’m still searching for what I need to do.
“But I believe I’ll get there.”