Even a Hollywood scriptwriter would have rejected the story of Stuart Manley’s third day at the ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf as a little too farfetched.
The bald facts are that Manley shot a round of 72 which saw him fall back into a tie for eighth place on two under par, but the bare figures do not even begin to tell the story of what unfolded at Royal Melbourne Golf Club on Saturday November 23 – a date which, one suspects, will linger long in the Welshman’s memory.
Consecutive birdies from the first hole got the 34 year old’s round off to the perfect start, and his day got even better when his tee shot on the par three third hole landed at the front of the green, took three bounces and rolled straight into the cup for the third hole in one of his career.
Thinking he had also won the AUS$130,000 Mercedes on display behind the tee, Manley broke off his celebrations and gave the car a quick pat. He then made his way to the green, only to be told by a rules official that the prize was, in fact, only on offer during the final day’s play.
His disappointment was compounded at the next hole, where he took four shots to locate the putting surface from the edge of the green en route to posting an 11 – the highest score of his professional career.
Said Manley: “It’s the highest high and then the lowest low I’ve ever experienced on a golf course. I thought the car was mine, and with the crowd, all the hype, I was just buzzing. The adrenaline was pumping so much, I could have flown to the green.
“Then I found out about the car, and go and have an 11. I kept asking my caddie, “How many shots is that now?” I actually thought it was a ten but I was not going to argue, because my head was pretty fried at that point, to be honest.”
To his eternal credit, the Challenge Tour champion then showed immense mental strength to bounce back with birdies at the sixth and 15th holes, and an eagle at the 15th which, miraculously, moved him back to level par for the day.
There was time for one last bizarre episode, however, as he pulled his approach shot on the last and his ball ended up in the container beneath the big screen adjacent to the 18th green.
Having taken a free drop, Manley chipped onto the green and two-putted for a round of 72 which has to rank amongst the most eventful in history.
He said: “Even though it probably sounds a bit strange, I’m actually quite proud of the way I held it together after my 11. I think I am pretty strong mentally. My caddie said a lot of people would have folded after that, but I made some good chances after that and I just kept plugging away.
“It’s obviously a shame I bogeyed the last, but if somebody had told me I would’ve finished on two under at the end of the day after taking an 11, I would have taken it. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at that point, but you’ve just got to pick yourself up and get on with it. I won’t forget this day for a while, talk about mixed emotions. But hopefully it’ll have a happy ending.”