Cayeux set for an incredible return

SIX years after he was involved in a horrific car accident that almost claimed his life, golfer Marc Cayeux is set to complete one of probably Zimbabwe’s greatest sporting comebacks when he tees off in the Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open next week.

DANIEL NHAKANISO

Cayeux was yesterday confirmed in the star-studded field for Zimbabwe’s premier golf tournament to be played at Royal Harare Golf Club from April 14-17.

The 38-year-old golfer was a nine-time winner on the Sunshine Tour when his vehicle was involved in a head-on collision with a police truck in 2010 while travelling alone along the Masvingo-Chivhu road.

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.

Now, remarkably, Cayeux is back and ready to challenge for the title he almost won in 2010 when he finished third behind South Africans Jbe’ Kruger and Jaco van Zyl.

If he does go on to win it, whose chances seem remote at this stage as he is in the early stages of his comeback, it would put him up there with the greatest sporting comebacks of all-time.

However, even if he does not challenge for this year’s Zimbabwe Open title, he is a remarkable story of courage, pain, tragedy and still ranks as one of the most amazing golfers.

Zimbabwean sport has had its fair share of sporting comebacks, but none comes close to matching Cayeux’s.

Former Dynamos midfielder Desmond Maringwa spent seven years battling with his knee injury before returning to win the league title with the Harare giants.

Retired female tennis player Cara Black also made a notable comeback during the 2013 season as she went on to win a further four WTA titles after spending a year away from the game following the birth of her first child.

However, what makes Cayeux’s story more extraordinary is that even his doctors doubted if he would ever walk again yet next week he will be back walking up and down Royal Harare’s greens.

His right knee moved four inches into his femur which was completely shattered during the accident while his left ankle was almost severed.

“I still remember watching my left foot just hanging, almost separated from my leg,” Cayeux recounted his ordeal in a recent interview.

The late American World Golf Hall of Fame member, Ben Hogan suffered a similarly horrific car crash in 1949 when the vehicle he and his wife were in collided head-on with a bus.

After a series of painful operations and life-threatening blood clots, Hogan was told he would never play golf again. A year later he won the US Open, and he went on to win five of the next seven Majors he played.

His story remains an inspiration for Cayeux in his comeback bid.

“I believe if Hogan could do it then so can I,” said Cayeux. “People say, ‘Your body’s been through too much. You won’t make it’. But if you just go on everyone’s word, you won’t accomplish anything. The only way to find out is to do it yourself. If golf’s not meant to be my body will tell me I can’t do it. But mentally I believe I can.”

Cayeux won his first title on the Sunshine Tour in the 1999 Zambia Open, and his last victory came in the 2008 Nashua Masters. He also had three wins on the European Challenge Tour circuit. Cayeux finished fourth on the Challenge Tour in 2004, to gain exemption to the full European Tour for 2005 where he had an opportunity to play alongside some of the biggest names in world golf such as former world number one Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson.

Cayeux also played on the then Zimbabwe PGA circuit where he was leading the Order of Merit at the time of the accident.

Confirming Cayeux’s participation, Zimbabwe Open Golf Committee tournament director Mike Mahachi said a star-studded field was expected for this year tournament led by two-time champion Jbe’ Kruger.

“The 2016 event will once again be graced by a quality field of world acclaimed golfers led by two time champion Jbe’ Kruger who is a favourite among the Zimbabwean golf enthusiasts,” Mahaci said.

“Jbe’ has lots of championship victories on the Asian and European Tours. He will be joined by Zimbabwe born and 2015 Champion Dean Burmester who has now broken into the top 100 in the world rankings. One of Zimbabwe’s most talented golfers since Nick Price, Marc Cayeax will be making his long awaited come back and courtesy of the Open Committee’s Invitation,” he said.