A major golf event of 1sts
May’s inaugural AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open witnessed many firsts.
It was the first time the European Tour visited the island; the first tri-sanctioned tournament in men’s professional golf (the European Tour joining forces with the Sunshine and Asian Tours); and the first opportunity for Mauritius to showcase itself as a golfing destination at the highest level of professional golf.
There was even a remarkable first in the shape of Javier Colomo hole-in-one on a par-four - because the European Tour had never witnessed one before in its 43 year history.
But there was one other first that week - one which, like the prospects for the event and the reputation of the island‘s golf courses, shows great promise for the future and, again like the event, it began early on Thursday morning.
It was a steamy morning, with the rain that had fallen overnight rising in the early morning heat. It made for an atmospheric start for the first group and also for the second, one of whom was fresh-faced, a little nervous and welcomed to the tee with quiet encouragement.
His name was Ludovic Bax, he’s 22-years-old and he was the first Mauritian to tee it up on the European Tour.
Bax, who first started playing golf aged 10, is a fine golfer who has represented Mauritius at the Eisenhower Trophy, golf’s leading amateur team event.
He also has experience of playing alongside veteran pro golfers at the MCB Tour Championship Pro-am and Air Mauritius Trophy, both played at Constance Belle Mare Plage every December.
All the same, and despite his distinctive wide smile, he approached that first tee with a few nerves.
“That’s right,” he laughed afterwards. “I was a bit tense. Think that’s why I pushed my first shot quite a long way right.”
But the cheers that greeted his departure from the tee box were encouraging and he was to receive them right around the course, as friends, fellow golfers and proud Mauritians followed his progress.
The biggest roars came late in the day when on the back nine he first holed from 20 metres for birdie and then repeated the trick for eagle on the very next hole.
“The guys were great out there today,” Bax said. “I feel really honoured to play for Mauritius. So many of the people out there today I’ve known all the time I’ve been playing golf. I learned the game here, on these courses and they came out to support me.”
His level-par first round of 72 had him inside the cut mark, but Friday’s 79 left him with the weekend free and yet there was plenty he learned from the experience.
“It’s been great to play amongst so many top class golfers. I’ve had a great time and this will really help my game improve.
“The plan is to stay amateur until September because I have a few more events to play for Mauritius. Then I will turn pro and head to South Africa and the Sunshine Tour.”
If he makes it through Qualifying School - and he has plenty of experience in South Africa, which he uses as a training base - he will achieve another first: the island’s first member of a professional golf tour.
When the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open returns in May 2016 Bax will surely return and become the first professional golfer on the European, Sunshine and Asian Tours who can say he was made in Mauritius.
Photos: Heritage Golf Club, Ludovic Bax