Tour pro details extraordinary race to get out of Africa

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When the history books are written, they will presumably record the first week of the DP World Tour as ‘chaotic’.

The new-look, newly-named circuit saw its first event – the Joburg Open – reduced to 36 holes as a result of both inclement weather and the discovery of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

The emergence of the new strain prompted the UK Government to put South Africa back on the travel ‘red list’, prompting more than a dozen British and Irish players to withdraw ahead of Friday’s second round in a bid to make it home before new quarantine rules came into effect over the weekend.

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That, though, was far from straightforward. understands that the tour attempted to arrange a charter for players, caddies and officials from Joburg to Dubai only for that flight to be cancelled when authorities in the UAE revoked the travel permit.

In a lengthy Twitter post, English pro Matt Ford shed some light on the chaos that ripped through the opening event of the 2022 DP World Tour season.

“Only 48 hours ago, I woke up thinking of good things to make up for a poor first round in the Joburg Open,” said Ford, now safely quarantining at home. “At 7.30am on Friday, lucky, a friend ‘Macca’ [Richard McEvoy] was banging on my room door and asked if I had seen the news.

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“The thought of not being able to get home to my family was my main concern. Within a few hours, I had uncomfortably rushed to book an extortionately priced new flight home through Ethiopia and Turkey and driven to an express PCR testing centre in a suburb of Johannesburg.

“[I] then quickly packed up, checked out of the hotel got a taxi and joined what seemed like an eternity of multiple long queues for people to question the endless paperwork and hoops we are made to jump through.”

Ford, 43, finally made it home to Kent after a 30-hour scramble but is now isolating away from his young family to save them from having to self-isolate, too. Compounding matters, his golf clubs have gone missing in transit.

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“I do love my job but moments like this make you wonder,” he added. “Being able to see my family through a window is a lot harder than I thought but those first hugs will be amazing.”

Ford’s fellow Englishman Dale Whitnell described trying to get home from South Africa as “catastrophic”.

“How the UK can leave people out with the washing is beyond me,” he tweeted. “Flight booked tonight via one of the countries not red listed yet. £15k and counting?”

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