Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Meltdown in sweltering Singapore and it's only 5.30am

BY COLIN BYRNE, European Tour caddie
Some sort of sustained sleep is what you crave when the European Tour takes you eastward to Singapore for the start of the exotic part of the Golf Tour.
You twitch and turn in bed, sort out a hundred things in your head and try to avoid finding out the time. Finally you give a quick glance in the direction of the clock and just hope that it’s somewhere close to twilight. Of course it’s not, it’s pitch black and deadly silent, it’s two in the morning and you are ready to run a marathon.
I finally gave up the fight of mind over body and accepted there is no way of cheating this state of disorientation with an eight hour time change to Singapore: the body won.
So I prepared myself with extra care and attention for the long day ahead in the moist sun and headed out onto the street towards my player’s hotel to catch the first bus to the golf course.
At 5.30 in the morning the air was already heavy, hot and humid. I passed through some dense, exotic foliage and its eerie rasps and in my over alert state wondered if snakes hung from these tangled sinews waiting for an unsuspecting European early passer-by.
I made it to the bus without being ambushed by any scaled creatures from the undergrowth and was already overheating in the soupy morning tropical heat.
My senses were heightened but I was not sharp, I was wide awake but lethargic, I was hungry for food but not for breakfast, I was in other words jet-lagged and disoriented to the hilt. On arrival at the course, with the slightest glimmer of day break on the horizon I realised I was not alone in my state of confusion, there were plenty of my colleagues wandering around the vast Serapong clubhouse on Sentosa Island feeling exactly the same way early last week on our arrival for the Singapore Open.
I met my player, Alex Noren, who had also given up on feigning fatigue and we ordered breakfast at just after six in the morning. There are not many golf clubs that no matter what tournament is taking place will serve food at such an hour. Of course in south east Asia early is the most popular time, trying to avoid the excessive heat of the day.
My boss in his own state of disorientation, ordered a double espresso in order to try to establish some state of equilibrium. It was the first cup of coffee he had this year.
I stumbled upon an unusual sign in one of the car parks at the course that had a warning about the safety of vehicles. I was expecting a notice about leaving valuables in your car but instead realised the sign was warning owners that the indigenous peacocks roaming the vicinity could possibly attack the cars.
Interesting then that our own peacock on tour, Ian Poulter, should have captured the Singapore title last Sunday wearing a crushed pink ensemble as his feathers rose above his peaked visor.
The course was set on a part of Sentosa Island that overlooked the busiest port in south east Asia.
Standing high on the third tee overlooking the reclaimed land that makes up much of the front nine and beyond to a sea of cargo ships moored in the bay, was an impressive nautical spectacle. There was a constant flow of activity in the port involving massive cargo ships which held up to 3,000 containers each.
Tug boats were constantly manoeuvring these hulking vessels about the port close enough to the fifth green to almost be a distraction to the players.
Beyond, lay hundreds of idle ships waiting for the recession to lift and give them some cargo to transport across oceans again.
As if the time-change confusion was not difficult enough to deal with we were battling with the unpredictable nature of thunderstorms in what is the peak electric storm season in Singapore. So for three days it was the dawn to dusk patrol at the golf course with no time or inclination for anything else but survival.
Some locals advised us in some of our idle moments waiting for the thunderclouds to burst that traditionally this time of year is the peak time for lightning. It seems to be an incessant battle to fit events into weeks that are known to be problematic from a weather perspective. From fog, torrential rain, frost and wind, it is a battle at either end of the year to dodge major delays.
The problem with an event held near the equator is no matter how fit or young you are the intensity of the heat and humidity seems to melt the golfer’s brain. It was no coincidence when we went out to try to complete our third rounds last Saturday afternoon as the sun was beating down relentlessly upon us many golfers’ brains went to mush.
No matter how much water you drink and other precautions you take it would appear to be an almost insurmountable challenge to function in such humidity. It must be akin to what happens to climbers at extreme altitude, there is not enough oxygen getting to the brain and therefore it doesn’t function.
It seems that the sleeping patterns of a travel-weary European will settle in south east Asia, given a reasonable adjustment period. The hot, wilting and melting heat is something I don’t think even the Asians themselves get used to but they have come to accept the mind-boggling melt in a way us foreigners never will.
*This article appears in the print edition of the Irish Times



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