AUTHOR : CHARLIE EPPS
Known as "The Golf Doctor," Charlie Epps has been one of Houston's most respected PGA professionals for 30 years. He is the Director of Golf at Redstone Golf Club, home of the PGA Tour's Shell Houston Open.
Epps teaches two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and second-year Tour player Bobby Gates. Listen to Epps 9-10 a.m. Saturday mornings on Yahoo! Sports Radio on 1560 AM in Houston, channel 127 pm Sirius satellite and 242 XM.
Do you think PGA Tour players live the glamorous life. Hmm, I'm not so sure about that. My student Angel Cabrera played in 20 events this year. I was with him for 19 of them. We chased the almighty dollar across four continents to play in five countries.
We counted up how many hours he spent on airplanes this year. Care to take a guess? If you estimated 300 hours, you were way wrong. Cabrera spent about 456 hours traveling the world in airplanes this year. That's the equivalent of 19 days! On an airplane!
He also spent 140 nights sleeping in hotel beds. That's a third of the year sleeping in unfamiliar rooms. Not exactly a glamorous life.
Last month we got back from the most grueling trip of our year. Would you travel across 13 times zones to play golf for a first prize of $1.3 million? Of course you would. Would you do it for $45,000? Why, sure. But it's not easy. They make you play golf in the middle of the night. It's really day time there, but according to your body clock it's the middle of the night.
We did it last month, and we'd do it again. Professional golfers and their support teams spend most of their time chasing that pot of gold. They are well compensated—when they play well, at least—but the life of a tour pro is much more of a grind that many people think.
One of my favorite movies has always been Around the World in 80 Days. I never thought I'd make that trip in less than two weeks.
I went with Cabrera for the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We left on a Friday afternoon and flew from Houston to London. That took 11 hours and we got there at 2:30 in the morning Houston time. After a five-hour layover, we boarded the plane to Malaysia and settled in for another 12 hours of flight time.
I looked up on the screen in our section and saw that our flight pattern was taking us over Russia. I wanted to say, "Wait a minute," but at the advice of a good friend who flies this route many times a year, I snuggled up with a nice sleeping pill.
That took care of about nine hours. I think I slept well, but I'm not sure. I woke up not knowing where I was. A flight attendant offered me something to eat that I didn't recognize, so I asked for a bottle of water instead. I looked up at our flight patterns and realized we were over the Indian Ocean. That's when it dawned on me. I was halfway across the world.
We landed in Kuala Lumpur at 7:12 a.m. Sunday morning Malaysian time, three days after we left Houston. We traveled a total of about 12,000 miles to get there. On our first day there, we didn't do much of anything besides trying to figure out where we were and letting our bodies try to catch up with the time changes.
Jet lag is no joke. With the 13-hour difference, you're doing everything you usually do during the day at night and vice versa. Your world is literally upside down. You're having dinner when you're used to eating breakfast. You wake up when you're used to going to sleep.
The trip made me understand why only one Asian player has ever won a major in the U.S. If you live in Japan and come to the U.S. to compete, it's almost impossible to beat guys who live here. When you're halfway across the world, your body just doesn't feel the same.
Cabrera didn't play well, and he finished second-to-last. He still took home $45,000.
We always hear how people across the world dislike Americans. One of the things that amazed me about traveling aboard is that everywhere you go, everything is Americanized. They all try to live like us. And I found the people of Malaysia to be quite friendly.
Our flight home took us over Vietnam and China and into Taiwan. From Taipei to L.A. was another 12 hours. Then there was one last, three-hour flight home. It took me a full week to start feeling normal again. One day I was sitting at my desk at Redstone and I realized I didn't know where I was, and I had to go home to sleep. It was 2 p.m. I slept for eight hours.
Is any of this glamorous? I don't know. Would I do it again? Sure, I would. I'd know what to expect. What I learned more than anything is that visiting remote places in the world is interesting, but it really makes you appreciate what we have here at home.