Golfer Leishman draws strength from stricken wife
> Robson Sharuko
Harare – AUSTRALIAN golfer Marc Leishman can now afford a smile, after a tough year in which his wife’s illness took centre stage, and the good thing is that it was her inspirational support that helped him pass the test, as he captured Africa’s Major golf tournament and the massive jackpot that it brings.
In fact, he says he can now even use the US$1.74 million cheque that he picked, for winning the Nedbank Golf Challenge which ended at Sun City at the weekend, to pay for the family home after they moved into a new house.
He came to Sun City for a big game hunt that saw him power to a comfortable, and very impressive, six-stroke victory in the Nedbank Golf Challenge, as he became only the second Aussie to win the tournament that they call Africa’s version of a Major golf tourney.
Six years ago, his countryman, Robert Allenby, also triumphed in the same tournament.
Swedish star, Henrik Stenson, finished in second place this year but, like the rest of the field, he was far off the pace as Leishman powered to glory, closing with a 67, for a 19-under-par total that thrust him six strokes off the chasing pack at the Gary Player Country Club.
Golf, just like other sporting disciplines, have been turned, by the power of big money and television, into games dominated by the relentless pursuit of riches that have turned the players into robots devoid of emotion.
But that wasn’t the case on Sunday at Sun City as Leishman came to Sun City and won big.
This was the year when Leishman’s wife was rushed to hospital in March this year with a life-threatening respiratory disorder, had a death in the family when his uncle passed away and, of course, was beaten in the play-off at the British Open.
“I’m going to be happy to have this year over with. Audrey was so sick, and then I lost an uncle who I was very close to. So this tops off a tough year for me,” he told the official Nedbank Golf Challenge website.
This was his first victory in three years and, given the year that he has had, it was only fair that the golf gods smiled at him, when he needed a victory the most, and his win will propel him into the top 25 on the world rankings.
And, when he returns home for Christmas, to spend time with his wife, who rallied behind him all the way, and their two kids, Harvey (3) and Ollie (2), there will be a feel-good factor in the home.
His wife Audrey is still battling to recover, as her immune system continues its repairing exercise while rebuilding her muscle strength.
“It’s an awesome feeling to win. It’s not very often that you walk up 18 with a good cushion and can enjoy it. Holding this trophy is an awesome feeling,” said Leishman.
“We’ve just moved into a new home and this will definitely help pay for that.
“It was a big personal crisis for our family and it could have been worse because there were moments when she didn’t look like she was going to make it.
“Definitely, there was a solid week where I probably thought I’d played my last tournament and was going to be a stay-at-home dad to look after my boys.
“To be out there just playing golf is awesome and Audrey obviously has been very supportive of getting our family back to a normal life.”
And, the triumphant Aussie even had time to pay tribute to the man that he beat for the big prize.
“Henrik is an awesome player and at times it felt a bit like match play out there between us,” he said.
“I also knew that trouble was waiting on every hole on this golf course so I was focused on every shot.”
Three birdies in four holes gave him a distinct advantage in what was essentially a two-man battle for the tournament and when he put together a string of three more birdies, after the turn, it was as good as all over.
Stenson even bogeyed the final hole to give Leishman the eventual six-stroke victory that must have cheered spirits far away from Sun City, as a family in Victoria, Australia, thanked the stars for finally giving them a breakthrough after a very tough year.