Just a short note to say a big thank you for arranging our “Pro Golf Experience” to the 2012 Vanuatu Open. The coordination you both provided prior to and during our “Golf experience” was excellent, in particular the Mangoes Resort was an ideal setting for enjoyment and relaxation after a long day on the golf course (the in house massages and food a highlight). To be able to play golf “inside the ropes for 5 days as an amateur” with Professionals such as Chris Campbell was a first for us both. How you managed to coordinate all our tee times and bus arrangements and play so well yourself Aaron mystifies us mere golfing mortals. A big thank you to Angela, who assisted with so much of the detail in a caring and professional way when assistance was required. We look forward to our next Pro Golf Experience.
George and Mary-Ann
The highlight of the trip for me was my caddy called Take (pronounced Tar-kay). She was a bit of a wag with a lovely sense of humour. She organized me, pushed my clubs with gusto, whispered encouragement to me, walked the course in her thongs or sometimes bare-footed. She helped keep my score, always found my ball even in the long grass, cleaned my clubs until they shone and made that fabulous dress for me on the last night. Take also took a shine to Tim and kept her eye out for him on the golf course and would point him out to me with great delight. She even made him a shirt for the presentation celebrations.
This trip was for me a really unique utterly delightful glimpse of a Pacific Island, with some golf highlights. I will always remember playing golf with Lesley when her ball went straight towards a coconut tree. It became wedged between a bunch of coconuts. On the ground below was a shout from a group of local children 200 – 200.
Robert’s Quest, True Love…and that Ring
Surely the “Most Persistent Award” from our trip to the Vanuatu Golf Open has to go to Robert Healy, alias Bilbo Baggins, in his search for his beloved Teresa’s wedding ring (Precious). On a sailing trip via the good ship Coongoola around the islands, we stopped off at Moso Island for lunch and a spot of snorkelling on the reefs. Teresa decided she would cool off in the shallows and was promptly upended by a huge wave that crashed to the shore. Unfortunately her “Precious” slipped off her finger and was lost in the surf.
Unperturbed by the huge seas Bilbo took it upon himself to carry out a one-man search for “Precious”. Bilbo searched and searched, sifting through the sands for what seemed like the time Orcs ruled the earth and goblins hid in the caves on the island, but “Precious” was nowhere to be found.
Exhausted, Bilbo finally gave up his search conceding “Precious” was gone and would resurface in The New Age and be claimed by another poor soul that will be plagued by its magic. The next step was a call to the insurance company and hopefully a little more magic.
Our Trip to Mount Yasur on Tanna Island
A big part of my decision to go to Vanuatu was the opportunity it presented to see the world’s most accessible, active volcano – that has always been high on my bucket list.
At 7.30 on the Monday morning, with just 15 minutes notice from the tour operators, Ross, Janis and I scuttled down to the airport, paid our 200 Vt departure tax and prepared for our adventure. Anne later joined us after a mix up about what footwear was required. Our flight to Tanna Island was in a single engine Cessna and took about an hour over the ocean. On a arrival at Tanna Island we boarded a twin cab ute for the one and a half hour trip to the volcano over some pretty rough bush tracks. In places we had to hang on tight to avoid getting tossed out.
On the way we stopped at small clearing where about fifty locals had gathered for a circumcision ceremony and there was long line of people presenting gifts to their families. There was also a large, frightened boar trussed up on the ground which I presume was headed for the cooking pot at the end of the ceremony.
We finally emerged from the jungle track onto a large ash plain at the base of the volcano. The volcano was smoking in the background and, as we drove through the ash cloud, Ross and I were sandblasted by the ash particles. The driver told the people inside the cab that he was going to scare us in the back by driving at high speed towards a cliff and veering away at the last minute. He succeeded!
To get to the crater we went back into the jungle and drove to the far side where we had a short walk to the rim. My first reaction was disappointment. There were clouds of steam and smoke coming up but not much else. I was expecting fire and brimstone. Then there was a great God Almighty roar and a huge cloud came belching up. You could see rocks and debris being hurled up in the cloud. I said the F…. word and a few other expletives. There were explosions going on almost continually. My camera didn’t do the scene justice. I just wish I had my movie camera, which I left in my haste at Mangoes. Today was only category two, said the guide. Last week was category three and he pointed out a rock the size of dining table where we were standing that had been tossed up some time the previous week.
I did notice that after dropping us off at the path to the crater rim, our vehicle parked about half a kilometre away. Hmm! There is an old saying that you don’t ask the question if you may not like the answer. I just kept saying to myself, “It must be safe, the guides are here. It must be safe, the guides are here!” I was in volcanic heaven and my thirst for brimstone, if not fire, was sated temporarily. We spent about an hour at the crater before going back to the vehicle for lunch and the long trip back – covered in soot.
It was a long day and it wasn’t cheap but I am very glad to have had the experience.
How to. . .Harvest Coconuts in Vanuatu
Cleverly executed by Les G whilst playing in the VGO
- Proceed to the 10th hole at Port Vila Golf Club. A nice little left hand dogleg par 5 of 465mt.
- Ensure your drive arrives at its destination at least 200mt from the tee box and on the right side just off the fairway in the long grass.
- Clean and place your selected Srixon Soft Feel golf ball on a nice high blade of grass (if you can find one).
- Request your caddy retrieve your 15degree 5 wood graphite shaft combination from your golf bag.
- Assume the correct stance with a tight grip on the club handle, slowly swing back and belt the living daylights out of the said ball.
- Watch as the ball flies off the club head into the tree striking the coconut at supersonic speed with the force exploding the coconut at 140 decibels.
- Watch how the coconut falls to the ground spraying its life giving juice everywhere.
- Proceed to your Srixon ball that is now sitting in the middle of the fairway and continue on to finish the 10th hole with a bogie.
My Mate Matlin
On the Sunday after we arrived we were invited to the golf club. We were served drinks upstairs by a lady with a hibiscus behind her ear. Her eyes lit up when she saw Teresa and she said to her “I have a caddy for you who will make you a dress.” Somewhat alarmed by this bizarre statement, Teresa replied that she didn’t play golf. “But your husband does” said hibiscus woman, turning her attention to me. She wrote the name Matlin on a coaster and gave it to me.
“Matlin will caddy for you and will make your wife a dress. It’s a tradition.” Not knowing much about local traditions, I thought I had better go along with this. After all, the tradition of cannibalism had only died out in these islands a few generations ago. Still, I did wonder about this guy, Matlin, and his skills as a dressmaker.
On the morning of the Pro-Am I approached the caddies at the back of the driving range and asked for Matlin. They pointed back to the clubhouse. On the other side of the clubhouse I asked again for Matlin. “Anyone here called Matlin? Matlin?” A very large lady shuffled over and asked me where my bag was. “This must be Matlin’s mum,” I thought. “You have buggy?” she asked. I was under the impression that we wouldn’t be using buggies in Vanuatu, one of my many misapprehensions, and had tried to empty as much extra stuff from my bag as possible to make it easier for the caddy who was going to carry it. When I said “No” she gave me the kind of look that I would associate with a spaniel on death row at the pound. “OK, OK” I said, “I’ll get a buggy. I just hope Matlin appreciates what I’m doing for him – when he turns up.”
So, away we went. It was a shotgun start and my group had drawn the first tee. I didn’t disgrace myself by putting my ball through the clubhouse window, which was a huge relief. The large lady started pushing my buggy and we made our way, slowly, very slowly, down the fairway. After two or three holes the penny dropped. “Is your name Matlin or are you Matlin’s mum?” I asked. “I am Matlin” she said.
The best Matlin moment came when I completely stuffed a tee shot on the back nine. Matlin was sitting with the other caddies under a tree about 150 metres away. By this stage I had her trained so that when I held up my hand with three fingers it meant I wanted my three wood. She thought about getting up for a moment and then she took the three wood and gave it to one of the other caddies to run it over to me while she remained seated.
When we turned up for the presentations, everyone was wearing Hawaiian shirts and the ladies were in Mother Hubbard dresses made by the caddies. Now I understood the tradition. I felt a bit left out. Then out in the darkness I saw some teeth gleaming and there was Matlin waving to me. She had a shirt for me, and a dress for Teresa. I thanked her profusely even though the shirt was too small there were no buttonholes and the buttons were on the wrong side. However, Teresa’s dress fitted her perfectly.
Island Eye Opener
The following are some observations on my one and only excursion around Vanuatu. For those participating in the trip, it was an eye opener. The “Bus” was typical of its breed, with dodgy seats and dubious vintage. Our driver described himself as the Chief of Police for Vanuatu, which we later discovered was a common occupation for most drivers.
First stop was to inflate the back left tyre, which was flat and when travelling at some speed, he continually opened his door and leaned out to check on said tyre. When asked what the speed limit was, his reply was typical Vanuatu “The speed limit is the road”. Before heading out on the trip he asked us for money to fill the petrol tank, which was registering “empty”.
We had only travelled about 20kms when we spotted a bus similar to ours with the driver throwing water onto the steaming brake drums. This is not designed to fill one with confidence because after another 20kms I remarked that someone was burning off the scrub, he replied “No! That’s our brakes”.
We also stopped at a WW2 “museum” where we learned of the wonders of Coca Cola bottles. I had no idea that the year of manufacture and the State of the USA where they were made was on he bottom of each bottle. They also had the case for an F24 Aircraft camera, which I had been involved in repairing back in he early 1950s. I must admit I got a bit choked up.
He said that the “better off” of the locals had a rifle so that they could shoot the feral chickens for meat.
We also visited a typical village where the poverty was very evident and pigs and piglets roamed freely like real pets, but when asked what happened to the really big ones they said, “We eat them”.
I know it sounds like a disaster but in reality it was fascinating and I’m astounded that people who have so little can be so overwhelmingly happy and generous.
Six months of anticipation
And we finally got packed to go
Thirty brave ‘bidgee players
All eager with bags in a row!
The flight over was uneventful
When we finally got on the plane
Without Nancye we all felt down hearted
But cheered up when the plane set down
The greeting at Mangoes was cheerful
Aaron and Angela had organised well
Dinner and drinks a night ritual
With many a day’s happenings to tell.
The golf, well, it was ordinary
But the people a delight to behold
The days with our caddies beside us
Made up for the loss of those holes!
So thank you to Aaron and Angela
For a trip that was one of a kind.
George to John (Caddie) “How far do you think this shot is?”
John “Too far for you . . .”
George at Presentation night “At what point should have I given up playing this week?”
Caddie “The day before the Pro Am.”
George to Golf Pro on 16th tee box “That looks pretty nasty on the right.”
Golf Pro “There’s only 2 things out there – amateurs missing golf balls and missing persons.”
Caddie to George “You swing too hard – swing slower and sweep the ball.”
George to John (Caddie) “You talk too fast – slow down.”
Pro Golf Experiences would like to thank the 30 players from Murrumbidgee Country Club for being such a delight to travel with and for sharing your stories. We hope to see you all again soon!