Having sampled the thrills and spills on offer at Disneyland Paris, cousins Michiel Bothma and Branden Grace will now hope to produce some equally spectacular golf at this week’s Allianz Challenge de France.
Barclays Kenya Open champion Bothma and Grace, who finished in a tie for third place behind his cousin in Nairobi, arrived in the French capital last Sunday and soon set about riding the resort’s rollercoasters, which include Space Mountain.
After tasting the high life on the Aerosmith Rock ‘n Roller Coaster – but studiously avoided the aptly-named Tower of Terror – the duo then returned to the day job and enjoyed a practice round at Golf Disneyland, a course which both men found to their liking.
Bothma, who currently leads the Challenge Tour Rankings with €30,400, said: “We had a great day over at the park on Sunday, though I wasn’t too adventurous on the rides because I haven’t got the strongest of stomachs. I only have to look at the ocean to start feeling a little bit queasy, so the thought of going on a ride with a sheer drop was a bit too much for me! But it was good to have a bit of fun before getting down to the serious business of practising.
“I like the course here – you need to drive the ball well, that’s the key. The course isn’t too long but you need to be accurate, so that probably suits my game. Most of the par fives are very reachable in two, even for a shorter hitter like me, so that’s where you really need to take advantage round here. If the weather’s set fair for the week, I should think you’d probably be looking at 20 under as a winning score, so you really have to chase birdies – though a few holes can also catch you out, so you have to take care.”
Grace’s prodigious length off the tee will not be as big an advantage at Golf Disneyland’s 6,597-yard, par 71 course, but the 22 year old from Pretoria was still confident of mounting another serious challenge, having fallen just short in Kenya.
He said: “It’s definitely one of the better courses we’ll play on the Challenge Tour this season, and it’s in great condition, so with the weather looking good we should be in for a great week. The course rewards good play and punishes poor play, which is how it should be. If you miss the green it can be very tricky to get up and down on a few holes, and if the rough gets up over the weekend we could be in for a tough time, because some of the fairways are very narrow in places. So it should be a very interesting week.”
Both men arrive in Paris feeling refreshed after a four-week break, during which time they returned to their native South Africa to fine tune their game ahead of the gruelling European season.
For Bothma, the break could not have come at a worse time, coming as it did on the back of his maiden Challenge Tour victory, but the 38 year old is hopeful of getting swiftly back in the groove.
He said: “I was sorry there hasn’t been a tournament for a few weeks, because after you win you just want to keep on playing. I practised hard, but for the past week or so I haven’t been hitting it as well as I was. But hopefully when I get out on the course I can get off to a good start and get the feeling back again.”