One of the most successful golfers in the history of the Asian Tour – and someone who has played in almost every nook and cranny of the globe “except the two Poles” – Scott Hend is thankful for the smallest things in life these days.
Like, whenever he sees his own golf bag he has this immense urge to run up to it and give it a hug or two.
It just so happens that the no-nonsense Australian’s bags have been misplaced three times in the past nine months by airlines. Even for someone who travels as much as “Hendy,” that’s an incredible streak of bad luck. “At least I have got them back. And two times out of three, it was while going back home after a stretch of events. So, I guess I am lucky,” says the 48-year-old.
Tearful reunions with his bags aren’t the only reason Hendy is feeling lucky these days.
His form and world ranking has dipped in the past couple of years as he grappled with debilitating prostate issues. So much so that it led to a long break towards the end of 2021 season with surgery the only option left. It wasn’t life-threatening, but Hend’s like a rabid advocate – he cannot stop telling people how important it is to pay a short visit to their urologist and get their prostates checked.
“I am much better now. It’s still not 100 percent, but I am getting there,” he said. “While I’m supposed to take a medicine to relax the bladder, it makes me get bad, vertigo-like, head spins. That’s why I pulled out of Abu Dhabi.”
Not surprisingly considering, Hend has dropped to No. 383 in the world rankings and has now missed cut in each of his six starts in 2022, including last week’s Asian Tour event Thailand, the first of the highly-anticipated International Series.
“It’s been a perfect storm for me to start this season,” he said. “I knew I wasn’t completely ready, but I did not want to miss the tournaments in the Middle East. There were two $8 million events and a $5 million Saudi. Then the bags got lost and I really could not practice. I could not get a spare set made to my specs because in these COVID(-19) times, the equipment guys come to events with limited stock. And then there was the medication issue.
“In the second week in Dubai, I developed an infection and played with heavy antibiotics. I stopped (taking) my prostate medication because of the head spins and now the doctor says it’s going to take a few extra months to recover fully. I still have a lot of discomfort in the area. Even today, I played and I went into the men’s room and I still had a little bit of blood in my urine.
“It’s just one of those things. I love to play golf and I’m not the type of person that will try and take a medical (exemption). I’ve just got to do the best I can and deal with it mentally and physically. I’m just trying to get my body fixed up and get my mind ready to try to win again.”
It’s not just his love for golf that got Hendy to Thailand for the two-week Asian Tour stretch despite all his medical issues. Of all the tours and places he has played in, Asia remains the all-time favourite place to go for the Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, resident.
“The Asian Tour is my favourite, without a doubt,” said Hend, the 2016 Order of Merit champion of the Asian Tour and second in its career money list. “I have had great success as a golfer and I have made some great friends in Asia. We have had some massive nights out drinking and partying with the boys. I mean, Young Nam, who is an American Korean, is my daughter’s godfather. I love going to Korea and eating Korean food or sleeping on the floor in hotels there. I like going to India and eating Indian food. I love all the different cultures.
“It does get frustrating sometimes because some people don’t understand your mannerisms, and they think you’re angry with them. It does take a little bit of understanding sometimes. When I went to India for the first time, I was very frustrated because I was asking a question, and the guy would look at me and shake his head. And I am like, ‘Are you saying yes, or are you saying no?’ ”
"I was bitterly disappointed by R&A’s decision to take away the Asian Tour Order of Merit winner’s spot at the Open Championship. It just reeks of fiddling in the background by these major tours and influencing the R&A. It’s just inappropriate.”
His close association to Asian golf and players is also the reason why he feels so strongly against the prevailing sentiments against the Asian Tour, which, he thought, is being “victimised” for doing the right thing for its members by accepting the Saudi-backed investment.
“Let’s just say that I have told the DP World Tour in no uncertain terms that the only way they can stop me from playing in the Asian Tour is by suing me,” said Hend.
“I told Keith (Pelley, CEO of the DP World Tour) that I’m playing where I want, just like I have done for all these years. I’m not changing because you guys have some sort of beef against the Saudis. You’re now trying to stop people from playing in Asia despite the fact that you guys were so close to signing up with the Saudis yourself. You can’t change now just because the PGA Tour told you to.
“I’ve supported the Asian Tour for years and years. I’ve gone between both the tours as much as I can. So, I just told him, ‘Good luck. If you think you’re going to stop me, take me to court. I’m gonna keep doing what I’m doing whether you like it or not.’
“When all this was going on, my exact words to Asian Tour CEO Cho (Minn Thant) was not to worry about what the PGA Tour and European Tour want you to do. You just need to look after your membership, first and foremost. And that’s what he has done. And now they’re trying to put sanctions on the tour. I was bitterly disappointed by R&A’s decision to take away the Asian Tour Order of Merit winner’s spot at the Open Championship. It just reeks of fiddling in the background by these major tours and influencing the R&A. It’s just inappropriate.”
Hend said the International Series becomes even more important because the bigger tours are trying to choke the pathway to them for Asian Tour members.
“The International Series is awesome,” he said of the 10 events infused with a $300 million investment from LIV Golf Enterprises. “I think it’s only going to go from strength to strength. For guys who are starting, these young guys can now financially benefit from it. Whether the PGA Tour or the DP World Tour cut the pathways to their tours through Asia, it doesn’t matter. As long as the Asian players have the ways and means to make a good amount of money, and they have the skills, they will find their way to these tours.
“Probably, less than 10 percent of players want to go to these bigger tours. For a majority of players, the whole problem in Asia was that we struggled to get tournaments with decent purses where guys could actually play well and bank some cash and feel secure. The International Series is going to be fantastic for all those guys.”
Meanwhile, Hendy has found a solution to one of the crippling problems in his competitive world – losing his golf bags. And he is optimistic everything will be all right with his own golf, and the state of world golf.
“I purchased these Apple AirTags in Dubai, and it is the best $100 investment I have ever made,” he said. “Most of the time, the airlines have no idea which city your bags are in. I can now tell them where they are through my ‘Find The’ app on the phone. So, hopefully, my bags won’t be away from me for a long, long time.
“I also hope that world golf recognise that we are in an inter-connected ecosystem. I remember a time when Jack Newton famously said the Australian Tour had no need for the Asian Tour. Look what happened after that. It’s the same for the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour and the governing bodies. They need to understand the importance of Asian golf. Working together is always the better option.”
Any final words from Hendy?
“Anyone who reads this, please get your prostates checked at least once every year. It’s just a short visit, but it is definitely worth it.”
Top: Scott Hend missed the cut in the Asian Tour's International Series Thailand.