Having achieved his St Andrews mission by qualifying for the 150th Open Championship, Ashley Chesters now finds himself stranded in South Africa and facing a fight against the coronavirus restrictions to get home in time for his wedding.
Chesters, 31, finished third in the shortened Joburg Open on Saturday to grab one of the places on offer for next year’s British major. These spots are more coveted than usual as the 2022 edition at the Home of Golf will be the Open’s 150th staging.
It will be Chesters’ first major as a pro and will have added resonance for the Shropshire golfer because he finished in a tie for 12th as an amateur when the Old Course last hosted the battle for the Claret Jug in 2015.
Clearly, it was a fine start to the European Tour season for Chesters, particularly as he lost his full card last campaign, and it is just as well he got plenty out of his week at the Randpark Golf Club because now he is left with a nightmarish scenario. He currently does not know when he can fly back to Britain and accepts that when he does he will have to undertake a 10-day quarantine in a hotel. Which makes it touch-and-go whether he will make the altar on Dec 18.
“I was supposed to be on a flight to Dubai today, but it was cancelled because of this new variant,” Chesters told Telegraph Sport on Sunday from South Africa’s largest city. “I am booked on a flight direct to London on Wednesday but I have no idea if that flight will actually leave. I’m hoping when they have the hotel quarantine situation sorted they will allow direct flights but I fear that is me being hopeful.
“The [European] Tour are working on something but it’s not looking great. Hayley is waiting patiently at home. She doesn’t sound as though she’s annoyed at me, but she may have told me differently to how she is really thinking!”
The second round of the tournament was under way on Friday when Sajid Javid, the UK Health Secretary, announced that six countries, including South Africa, have been added to the red list. Any British or Irish resident arriving from those countries later than Sunday would be forced to quarantine in a hotel, with those returning prior being instructed to isolate at home.
The news quickly filtered around the course and 15 British and Irish pros immediately decided to withdraw. After an opening 66, Chesters elected to play on and take his chances.