Redfern and fiancee go on journey of lifetime
Hong Kong-based British golf pro Nick Redfern and fiancee Yvette Chung last week embarked on a 40-week journey that will see them tour the Asia-Pacific region, compete in dozens of professional golf tournaments as player and caddie, and hopefully end up as man and wife at the end of it all.
Portsmouth-born Redfern and Hong Kong-born Chung decided to embark on the journey of a lifetime after the 32-year-old Redfern qualified for the Australasian PGA Tour at the qualifying school in Melbourne last November.
Redfern will tread the fairways on courses in Australia and New Zealand over the next two months before returning to Hong Kong to compete in a domestic event, all the time with Chung 'on the bag'.
'For someone who had almost no knowledge of golf before we met, Yvette has learned an awful lot about the game,' Redfern said. 'She's now so good at yardages and club selection that she is able to club me most of the time - although I obviously make the final decision on which club to use.'
Decisions on transportation, accommodation and finances are all left to 34-year-old Chung, who gave up her job in investment banking to help her partner achieve his ambition to return to tournament golf, a path he began to follow long before heading to Asia in 2000 to take up a position as senior golf instructor at Mission Hills Golf Club near Shenzhen.
Redfern began playing golf at the age of five when living in Germany, where his businessman father was stationed. At the age of 10, Redfern was living in Petersfield in Hampshire, and playing regularly at the local golf club.
By the age of 14 he was down to a scratch handicap and competing as a county representative for Hampshire. At 17, a four-year scholarship to the University of Georgia followed, where Redfern was the youngest of the 90,000 students attending. He majored in business finance and also studied sports psychology as a minor.
'Golf was my destiny,' said Redfern. 'I went back to the UK after graduating and two weeks later got a job as a teaching pro at a golf club in northern France. I gave my first ever golf lesson to a non-English-speaking French couple. With my basic GCE French skills we managed to get through the lesson OK,' he said.
After nine months in France, Redfern took a job as assistant professional at Blackmore Golf Club in Hampshire at the age of 22, where he spent four years gaining his full British PGA qualification. Once qualified he played both regional and also [European PGA] Challenge Tour events. 'That gave me the desire to play tournament golf again, so after five years with the club I left and played full time for a year on the Challenge Tour circuit,' he said.
Tournament golf took a back seat when Redfern was offered a job as senior teaching professional at Mission Hills Golf Club in China. After 14 months, Redfern accepted a 12-month position in Hong Kong, after which he also held teaching posts at two other local golf ranges before quitting full time employment last September to prepare for the Australasian PGA qualifying school.
'After we met I decided to quit my job and set up my own business in Stanley,' said Chung, who was educated at Marymount Secondary School in Happy Valley. 'I closed the business when Nick decided to quit teaching last year.'
Chung sponsored Redfern's $20,000 expenses for the Asian Tour Qualifying School in 2002. 'She's been solidly behind me since we first met at a dinner party in Central three years ago,' said Redfern. 'I didn't qualify in 2002 but Yvette continued to encourage me to have a go at the Australasian Tour. Now it's all paid off.'
The couple have estimated that their 40-week adventure will cost up to $800,000. 'I'm rather lucky that a very good friend has offered to support me financially,' added Redfern. 'I explained to my friend that I needed three months to prepare myself for the Q school. We decided to go to Thailand to practise so that I could concentrate 100 per cent on preparing for the challenge that lay ahead.'
Redfern played and practised for eight weeks in Thailand and then played in the Vietnam Masters in November via a sponsor's invitation, where he made the cut and finished 58th. 'It was good experience for us both,' said Chung. 'I also caddied for Nick in the Asian Tour Q-School in Malacca in 2002, but this was my first time to caddie in an event proper. It was quite tough as it was hot and the course was really hilly.'
After Vietnam the couple went back to Thailand for further practice until the end of November and then on to Melbourne for the two-stage Q-School.
Stage one saw 460 international pros contest the four-round qualifier, reduced to 220 after a 36-hole cut. Sixty players qualified after 72 holes, of which Redfern finished 12th.
Stage two was played at Peninsular Golf Club where the top 35 players would get a tour card. Redfern finished in a tie for 30th.
'I bogeyed the 12th and 13th and knew that I needed to be one under for the closing holes to be sure of getting my card,' said Redfern. 'Thanks to Yvette's motivation I managed to finish birdie, par, birdie, par. I made it by two shots. It was then I was struck by the importance of Yvette's help.'
'I told him not to give up,' said Chung. 'We'd got only four holes to play - two of which were par-fives. He birdied both the par-fives to finish at level par. It was a unique moment for us to have bonded like that - it was very special.'
Redfern said: 'We'll try and fit in the wedding at some convenient time during the year, but our schedule is so packed with events we really haven't had time to work out when.'