We are a proud supporter of the local community and each year take great joy in celebrating the Isle of Man’s wonderful diversity in sport, the arts, culture and community spirit through our wide-ranging support of individuals and groups, events, charities and good causes.
As part of this commitment we support a number of talented local individuals – Isle of Man Steam Packet Company Champions – who receive fully sponsored ferry travel each year so they can compete in events on and off the Island.
Professional golfer Tom Gandy, who hails from the south of the Isle of Man, is one of the individuals that benefits from supported travel; allowing him to compete professionally in the European Tour and continue to further his golfing career.
In what has been a really testing year which has affected our Champions in a variety of ways, we caught up with them to find out how their season is going, how the pandemic has impacted them and what they have planned for next year. Let’s see how Tom has got on.
How has COVID-19 impacted your 2021 season and what challenges have you faced?
The biggest challenges I have faced this year have all revolved around travel, isolation and living in a tournament bubble when away at events. Normally I would look to get back to the Isle of Man as frequently as possible as it’s my home, but with travel restrictions and isolation requirements it has been unsustainable for me to do so. When tournaments began in April, I ended up playing nine events in 10 weeks (when I would normally only like to play a maximum of three or four), travelling from tournament to tournament, bubble to bubble.
Early in 2021 the restrictions were very strict, so we were literally having to stay in a specific hotel, eat in that hotel, not go to the supermarket and simply move from airport to hotel to golf course, ensuring the least amount of contact with others as possible and being restricted to groups of four. I found this really difficult as it meant I spent a lot of time in isolation when away, which was compounded by the requirement to self-isolate for two weeks when I came home (despite spending so much time in a secure bubble).
Testing and health checks are now a part of day-to-day life while on tour and, I won’t lie, anxiety levels are high when waiting for the result as you know that if you test positive you’re out of that tournament and the one after, having to isolate in a foreign country. That has been a big challenge and it’s made me extremely cautious – I carry hand sanitiser everywhere I go!
Have you been able to compete much this season? If so, how has it been going for you?
My season began in April under heavy restrictions and although these have somewhat eased, we’re still operating under several strict rules as the European Tour has to negotiate with different governments across Europe, all of whom have their own rules around hosting a tournament. So yes, I have been able to compete, but it has been under some difficult circumstances and I would be lying if I said this hadn’t affected my frame of mind at times.
The loneliness of the bubble isn’t easy, but then I have not played my best golf so far this year either, so I often find myself dwelling on a poor shot or two as there’s not much else to occupy my mind when sat in a hotel room! It’s a difficult cycle to break when things aren’t quite going how you want out there, made worse by being unable to get home and see my loved ones for much-needed downtime.
But it’s not something I can grumble at too much – I’m still getting to do what I have always dreamed of for a living – it’s just that it is under more difficult circumstances than ‘normal’. I’m using the extra time at tournaments to work hard on my game, so I would hope that before the season is over the hard work will come to the fore and I will get the results I deserve!
What are your hopes/plans for the rest of the year and into 2022?
Time is running out a little for the 2021 season, with only a few tournaments remaining. As I say, I’m working hard at my game, adjusting my mindset and feeling better about things as restrictions continue to ease. I would love to put some good golf together over the next few events and have a strong finish to the season – things are on the up, so there’s no reason why not!
Hopefully restrictions will continue to ease into 2022 and we’ll be able to get back to some relative normality, with travel not so difficult. This would align with the European Tour returning to its regular format, offering the opportunity for players to move up and down through the rankings. If this happens, I will find myself competing on the Challenge Tour (the second tier of golf outside of the USA), which is where I am supposed to compete at now.
My status on the Challenge Tour is such that I’ll be able to play in every event in the schedule, allowing me to properly plan out my season and arrange the weeks in which I will compete, rest etc. This is something I have been unable to do over the last two seasons as I have often found myself qualifying for European Tour events at late notice and feeling obliged to go and cease the opportunity.
All in all I’m hoping for some big things for the rest of this season and certainly into 2022, so fingers crossed they happen. I hope everyone is enjoying the increased freedoms we have now and making the most of being able to travel again!