Daniel Gaunt’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic playing partner Raphael Jacquelin is closing in on €12 million in career earnings; the London-based Victorian is trying to raise £15,000 so that he can simply play on in 2020.
Gaunt has played just one European Tour event in three years but joins the list of Australians in the field this week at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai by virtue of finishing second on the 2019 MENA Tour Order of Merit, a Middle East mini tour that plays in locales such as Jordan, Oman, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.
That he is playing professional golf at all is a lesson in patience and perseverance.
Despite the unwavering support of his wife Caroline, Gaunt quit professional golf at the end of 2017, conscious that his family of four children now aged between three and 16 needed a greater level of certainty from their father’s profession.
He took on a greenkeeping job at Burhill Golf Club near Woking in south-west London where he was a member but a combination of 5am starts and the torment of watching his mates practice on the course he had helped prepare drove Gaunt to give golf another go.
“I quit at the end of 2017 because I had no money and had lost the love. I just wanted to be home with a regular job and get to see the family a bit more,” revealed Gaunt, whose only European Tour appearance since 2016 was a missed cut at the Made in Denmark tournament last May.
“The money for the job was nowhere near what you would call a living wage but I loved being able to have a hand in making the golf course look good for the members.
“But it did motivate me, seeing my friends out there. I was cutting greens for my friends and making them nice and fast, rolling them out. My friends were out there every day and I was getting it prepared for them.
“So that was a big motivation for me to get back out playing.”
A personal sponsor provided the funds that the 41-year-old needed to relaunch his career at the start of 2019; a win second start back at the Al Zorah Open in the UAE in February the confidence to push on even after the sponsorship ended suddenly mid-year.
“At that point I didn’t know whether I was going to go back out and play,” said Gaunt, once ranked as high as 151st in the world.
“But because of where I was on the MENA Tour rankings I had to go because I had a big opportunity to finish high up.
“After asking the wife whether I had enough money on the credit card to pay the entry fee I entered a Jamega Tour event and won that – which was £3,000 – and that paid for the rest of the season.”
By finishing second on the MENA Tour moneylist Gaunt was granted entry into this week’s Dubai Desert Classic, a tournament that carries just under €500,000 in prize money for the winner.
Describing the GoFundMe page he started earlier this month as a “spur of the moment thing”, Gaunt has so far raised just £275 of the £15,000 he needs to continue to cover the costs associated with life on tour.
He’s spent a 20-year career relying on no one but himself to provide the money he needs to keep playing and knows that his aspirations for a more regular return to the European Tour hinge on one good week.
“I’m literally taking it week by week at the moment,” said Gaunt, a two-time Challenge Tour winner who was third at the 2010 Australian Masters.
“This week could change a lot. It takes one good week and I could fast-track myself back onto the tour or I could be back at home trying to plan how to get to the next tournament.
“I’ve had to pay my way every year that I’ve been on tour. I’ve never really had a major sponsor or anything so what I win is what I use to go to the next event. To do what I’ve done over the past 20 years that I’ve played professional golf, I’ve been able to block that pressure out pretty well.
“It’s one week where I have to be on my game, have everything go right and we’ll see at the end of the week what the rest of the year brings. That’s where it lies at the moment.”
But regardless of how the week mixing with millionaires in the Middle East pans out, Gaunt knows that being back amongst golf’s elite is only possible due to the genuine belief of his wife Caroline that this is where he belongs.
“She’s my rock,” said Gaunt.
“She’s never said not to play golf. She’s always wanted me out here and she’s got the belief in me to go out and win and do well.
“If that was any different – if she knew that I couldn’t win or couldn’t compete – she might put her foot down and say, ‘It’s time.’
“But she knows I can still win and the support from everyone is amazing to have.
“I know I’ve got the ability to be in this situation and play at this level. Playing on the main tour for all those years and coming back, seeing all the friends that I used to play with, it’s almost feeling like I’ve come home and I’m back to where I belong.
“Hopefully I can repay them in a big way and they can all come out and celebrate with me.”
If you would like to contribute to Daniel’s GoFundMe campaign CLICK HERE.