Justin Rose: Bahamas disaster puts golf into perspective

Justin Rose and Justin Timberlake team up at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in St Andrews. Picture: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images
Justin Rose and Justin Timberlake team up at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in St Andrews. Picture: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images
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Justin Rose is facing six-hour rounds of golf over the next few days at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns and is likely to be faced with some dreich conditions at some stage during the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. So what when you are still coming to terms with the Bahamas, where he has lived for around five years now, recovering from the worst natural disaster in the country’s history.

The Olympic champion was at home in Nassau when Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 storm with wind gusts as high as 220 mph, hit the archipelago earlier this month, killing at least 50 people, leaving thousands unaccounted for and over 70,000 needing humanitarian assistance.

Rose said he was “lucky” to avoid a “dangerous” situation and revealed that his wife, Kate, has been playing her part in trying to help the worst-hit areas return to some sort of normality.

Speaking in St Andrews as he prepared for his first appearance in the £4 million pro-am since 2008, the Englishman said: “We were very fortunate to get away with it. Nassau is 100 miles south from where the eye of the storm tracked. We caught the fringes of the storm. We had three days of 40 miles an hour wind but nothing to impact the house, nothing dangerous at all. Just coastal erosion, beach erosion, stuff like that. We feel very lucky to get away with it.

“You realise how vulnerable you are when you see the power of the storm and what it can do. Nassau has become very much the heart of the relief effort. That’s where my wife is today, at a children’s home in Nassau, working and helping and doing what she can. A lot of us in the community have done as much fundraising as possible.”

Referring to Albany, where the Hero World Challenge has been held in recent years, Rose added: “Where I live at, Tiger Woods and Justin Timberlake have been involved in setting up a significant fund that can try to help some of the rebuilding process. In a small community like the Bahamas, when something so devastating happens, we definitely club together pretty well. It’s pretty devastating really to see. It’s a small enough place where you are bumping into people who have just lost their uncle. They have cousins they haven’t heard from. They fear the worst. It’s pretty difficult to watch.”

Former US Open champion Graeme McDowell, who also has a home there, pulled out of last week’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth after saying the disaster had “put life in perspective” and Rose, his Ryder Cup team-mate, echoed that sentiment. “Absolutely,” he said. “You see people’s lives. We can lose family, that’s one of the worst things that can happen. But to lose maybe your whole family and your whole family home. Kids are orphaned. There are going to be many stories of things like this. Golf is insignificant at that point. It’s always family first and these tragedies rip families apart. Those are very important things to think about when you get a little bit ahead of yourself and above your station. Your putt lips out and you think it’s the end of the world. Those are the moments when you’ve got to check yourself.”

Rose, who won the St Andrews Links Trophy as an amateur in 1997, is making his return to this event alongside Justin Timberlake, a man of many talents in the entertainment world. The pair have played together before in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am, the PGA Tour’s equivalent on the Californian coast, with Timberlake, who plays off two, now set to tackle three of Scotland’s top links courses for the first time.

“We’re both really cool and we both can dance incredibly well,” joked Rose of how the partnership was struck. “I met him in Orlando and he was playing golf at Lake Nona. I said hello and, being a keen golfer himself, he knew who I was. That was as far as it went. He then came to the Bahamas and we played a bit of golf. He came to the house for dinner and we started to hang out and we ended up playing the AT&T Pro-Am so it’s been an evolution over the last six, 
seven years.

“Golf has been the glue for sure. It’s been fun. I have the opportunity to see what he does and that’s great. To me he’s just Justin Timberlake, the guy who wants to play golf but, when you see him on stage, you see him become Justin Timberlake with thousands screaming for him. I have been able to watch two or three shows and have been in that inner sanctum so I get it a bit more of what he does now.”

Boasting three of the world’s top-five players – Rory McIlroy, Rose and Jon Rahm – the event has attracted its strongest-ever field for this week’s 19th edition. For Rahm, it’s a first visit to St Andrews and the Spaniard has been suitably impressed. “I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time,” he said of a first hit on the Old Course in a practice round. “You can just feel it’s a great atmosphere around this town related to golf. It’s really fun to be here.”

The world No 5 is being partnered by his dad Edorta, who took up golf after attending the 1997 Ryder Cup at Valderrama. “When they [his parents] came back, they said, ‘hey, let’s try this’. That’s how it started. I’ve got to say thank you for that,” he admitted, smiling.