Reeve Whitson’s wild ride
Reeve Whitson, a member of Team Ireland Golf, in action during the 2015 Volopa Irish Challenge. Picture: Thos Caffrey /

Reeve Whitson, a member of Team Ireland Golf, in action during the 2015 Volopa Irish Challenge. Picture: Thos Caffrey /

When your Airbnb explodes into the Casablanca night and you've been pursued at high-speed through the Egyptian desert by suspected terrorists, missing a few cuts is the least of your worries.

At least, that's how Royal County Down's Reeve Whitson feels about his first 1,000 days as a professional golfer and his efforts to tip-toe through the mini tour minefield to the safety of the big time. 

Missing more cuts that he's made is just part of this white-knuckle ride story for the 25-year old former Spanish International Amateur champion from Newcastle in Co Down.

But having decided to swap his North African adventures on the Pro Golf Tour for the safety of the Europro Tour circuit in Britain and Ireland, Whitson has his fingers crossed that his luck is finally about to turn.

"I haven't been playing great to be honest," he says candidly before heading to Tipperary for the Great National Hotels Irish Masters at Ballykisteen. 

"It's not the travelling that bothers me — and that's been very adventurous —  it's just that I am not playing my best golf. 

"The good thing is that I have learned a lot about my game and about myself more than anything over the last number of years and I feel I am on the right track."

A former Irish international and now a member of the Team Ireland Golf set up, Whitson has combined the Germany-based Pro Golf Tour and other mini tours with forays onto the Challenge Tour.

So far, he's had little success but he believes it's been more of a mental rather than a physical challenge and having seen signs recently that his game is turning around, he feels ready to push on.

"Part of the problem has been getting well out of the present in the middle of a round and letting outside factors, like what people think, come into my head," he says. 

"I have to become aware of these things, not eradicate these thoughts because everyone has them, just learn to deal with them."

He's fortunate that his close confidants are his father Kevan, the head pro at Royal County Down, and the GUI's National Coach Neil Manchip, who he's known since he was a child.

Hard work on the mental game with Dr Mark Elliott has also helped. 

"They've all been a great help, but ultimately all these things have to come within," Whitson says.

Opting to start on the mini tours and travel to events in places like Morocco and Egypt has been a hair-raising experience, and Whitson is happy that the furthest he'll travel on the PGA Europro Tour this year will be leafy Sussex.

"It's been mad," he says of his trips to North Africa. "I was in Morocco, and I was staying with Rory McNamara at an AirBnB in downtown Casablanca, and around 10 o'clock one night the whole side of the building we were staying in just blew up.

"We were on the top floor of this apartment, and this big gas explosion blew off the side of the building. All the lights went out, cars alarms were going off, and there was smoke everywhere. It was like something out of a movie. 

"Luckily we'd parked the hire car in a garage but it was madness. We just gathered all our stuff together, charged downstairs, threw everything in the car and booked into a hotel. We thought a bomb had gone off for sure."

Then there was that terrifying night-time dash through the Egyptian desert last year.

"It was one of my first events in Cairo, and we were heading for the airport at 4 am in the hotel's little mini bus," he recalls. 

"It was a two-hour trip through the desert to Cairo on the worst road you have ever seen. 

"Then out of nowhere, these cars started pulling up alongside the bus, flashing their lights, trying to get a good look at us, then driving in front of the bus telling is to pull over. 

"The driver was jamming on the brakes and he had no clue who they were and he definitely wasn't stopping to find out. All we thought was, ISIS!

"He was going way too fast for the road and we were lying on the floor between the seats thinking, we're going to die here. Either the lads in the cars are going to get us or the bus driver is going to crash. 

"Then, suddenly, the cars disappeared as quickly as they had appeared and 500 metres ahead there was an army checkpoint and big tank in the middle of the road. 

"I played with a Moroccan lad the week after and he said the desert is full of terrorists and that drive is particularly bad. I didn't go back to Egypt this year because of that. And I see the Challenge Tour didn't go back either

"That was a bit of a scare and from that point on I was wary of ISIS and all that stuff, even more so when the side blows off your Airbnb."

Whitson is happy to have a full Europro Tour card, and he's delighted to have sponsorship from a travel agent in the shape of golf fan Jonathan Miller from Bryan Somers Travel.

He even has time now to indulge in a new hobby — surfing.

Catching a wave on the Europro Tour is the next goal, and with his own sponsorship and a €4,000 grant from Team Ireland Golf, he's hoping to kick on.

"I've had loads of times on golf when it wasn't going my way, but I don't feel lost," he says. "I have spent two years working everything, out and I am just cracking on now. 

"It is not good fun getting the results I have been getting but I still enjoy it and once I start playing the way I know I can play, it will be great. 

"The plan is to be able to stand here at the end of the year and say, 'Yes, I have really come on.' I want to improve and try and get a win this year and progress my playing rights."

Watching pals and former Ireland teammates Gavin Moynihan and Dermot McElroy battle it out for the first Europro Tour title of the season made Whitson realise that he's not as far away some might think.

"I have always been a slow learner but I am getting there slowly but surely," he says. "It's been a bit more of an adventure than I'd like, but it's coming."

After everything he's been through, riding the wave of opportunity it when it comes along should be the easy part.

This piece first appeared in the Irish Independent's Tee to Green golf supplement on May 11