JOHANNESBURG – A couple of years ago, when Chris Paisley was a student at the University of Tennessee, his golf mates called him “Bones”.
He tipped the scales at a mere 54kg and was considered a lightweight. Not anymore.
Paisley captured his first European Tour title – and biggest – of his young career when he won the SA Open at Glendower on Sunday, banking a cool R2.3million in the process.
He finished the tournament on 21-under-par, three strokes better than home-town favourite Branden Grace.
And on Paisley’s bag during the week was none other than his wife Keri, who was in tears walking up the 18th fairway with her husband.
She was given the bag duties after Chris’ regular caddie, Sean Russell, was given the week off to rest before this coming week’s Abu Dhabi Championship.
“I wasn’t sure whether I was going to play here, so I told Sean to go straight to Abu Dhabi, and he booked a holiday in the Alps in Germany.
“I then decided to play here and said ‘Not to worry, I’d get Keri on the bag’. He can’t be too delighted about that now,” said Paisley on Sunday.
He added that having Keri on the bag was incredible.
“I can’t say enough about her. She did so well, it meant so much having her here... and knowing we’d won it. It’s incredible.
“Keri doesn’t play golf, but she knows her way around a golf course. She’s travelled with me in the last two years.
“Our plan was to come here and have some fun – we saw it as a warm-up week for Abu Dhabi. But Keri told me all the time, ‘We’re gonna win, we’re gonna win’.
“To play golf like that with her on the bag was amazing.”
The softly-spoken Keri explained the history behind the name “Bones”.
“He was 19 and from England when he arrived at Tennessee, in the middle of summer, in August.
“He went to training in shorts one day, and his teammates mocked his white, skinny legs. He weighed about 54kg.
“They said he looked like a skeleton because of the whitest legs they’d ever seen, and the name Bones was born. It stuck.”
Keri said she got goosebumps walking up Glendower’s 18th fairway on Sunday, knowing her husband had finally won on the European Tour.
“That was amazing. Absolutely I had goosebumps ... the tears flowed, too. It’s so surreal and will take a few days to sink in.”
Asked whether she’d like to carry her husband’s bag again, the former grade six maths teacher said: “I’ve already spoken to Sean and told him I’m done.
“It’s hard work doing that... and that bag is heavy. I think it’s a good idea to quit while ahead anyway... Sean can have his job back now.”