Category: Ireland


Blast from the past

There really hasn’t been too much to post lately so I guess I’ll have to start making things up. (Spoken in my deepest radio DJ voice… Ok boys and girls, here’s a little blast from the past… the Who, and Magic Bus…)

Never Ending Ireland Trip

Somehow the never ending Ireland trip continues… well what would you expect from a trip that never ends. And why should it? October 19… Golf tournament and Irish dinner. I’m sure Ron and Larry will figure out a way for Terry and I to come out owing money after all bets are made… maybe a double or nothing format?

At least it will be on a course we all know… Ballyfairwood

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As I said, this trip was first class all the way and the accommodations were no exception. Again, using the magic of the Internet and Microsoft Virtual Maps – I’ll let the web sites for the hotels show you how we lived like royalty for those 2 weeks.

Just click the map and you’ll be taken to the Virtual Earth site… hover over a pin and click More Info.

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Or you can use these “’quick links”

Dromoland Castle

Killarney Park Hotel

The Hayfield Manor

Carton House

Merrion Hotel

A map of our travels

 

This map will give you an idea of where we played. Click on any of the "push pins" and you will get a Microsoft Virtual Earth site… hover over a pin and click "More Info" and you should be taken to the web site for that golf club. Enjoy! The pin numbers are out of order, so just remember we started on the upper most west coast (Lahinch) and worked our way south and then east to Dublin.

Map image

Look out Fairwood… Here we come!

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The matches are complete, score cards are all turned in, and the computer has finished its computations. Now keep in mind, over the course of 8 rounds of golf there were 448 matches, each person playing 56 total matches and skins were computed on both a gross and net basis to give everyone a chance at getting something. For you students of statistics, it is interesting to note that of the 448 matches, 142 (32%) were either decided by 1 stroke, or were ties.

So here are the final results… without commentary. Keep in mind the conditions we were playing in and the impact of wind, rain and rough… Most of our group has never seen conditions like this before… and I’m not sure how anxious they are to experience them again. And then there is the stress of eight consecutive days of competition. Despite the conditions, you can never discount the sheer joy of playing some of the best golf courses in the World.

Name

Wins

Loses

Ties

Games Won or Lost by 1 Stroke or tied

Skins

Don Christensen

19

32

5

14

3

Larry Holm

28

22

6

20

6

Mike Simmons

31

19

6

16

22

Rick Richardson

33

20

3

19

23

Ron Nelson

1

52

3

15

5

Scott Cruikshank

12

32

12

20

9

Steven Parker

41

9

6

20

13

Terry Johnson

41

9

6

18

27

 

That’s right… after 448 matches it ends in a tie. Terry and Steve each have exactly the same score… so if you look out your back window one winter night and see two ghostly figures trudging through the wind and the rain down the fairway, it’s probably just us in the middle of our playoff.

We actually knew this score on our final night out… where somehow we all managed to independently end up at the same Pub, and the scores made for some great conversation on our last night sitting at Foley’s Pub eating Sheppard’s Pie and drinking Guinness.

After sitting here five hours into the flight on the plane back home drinking some Blue Label, I still haven’t been able to find that one score that will break the tie… and I guess that’s the way it should be… lots of great memories and good times to remember. No need to remember the scores.

Ok, we’re back on the coast. Portmarnock is a private course located on the northern side of Dublin. I believe there are only 125 members (no women, though I’m not sure what benefit that tidbit of information could possibly provide) and that the membership is by invitation only… Despite being by invitation, the membership includes all manner of economic situation, so wealth is not the primary criteria… in fact I heard that the owner of the K Club’s membership request was denied!

CIMG2097 First Tee

Today the winds are blowing. There is some debate over which winds were stronger… Lahinch, European Club or Portmarnock, but it was unanimous that these winds rank at or near the top. My little cut shot was travelling about 30 yards from left to right… ok, maybe it was a slice.

Today we did something a little different. Each day Ron had set up the foursomes with couples and as we entered our last round for the trip, we decided to take the top 4 men in the competition and put them together. (There was even a rumor they were moving back a set of tees, but when they looked at the yardage on the “green tees” at 6,703 with 40 kph winds, decided green would be good enough.

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 And since this was such an important match, they each took their our own caddies… what a sight this must have been seeing 4 golfers and 4 caddies moving around the course…

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And of course these caddies were no different from all the other sets of caddies… they all just stared in disbelief at my “hooded” driver and how it ended up square at impact. I even caught one clean and was 325 yards down the middle of the fairway… downwind of course!

To add to the energy of the match, Rick and Steve challenged Terry and Mike to a “high/low” match… straight up, no strokes. Mike started off rolling in a 30 footer on the first hole for par and between Mike and Terry they must have rolled in about 10 putts just like that and at the end of 9 holes it was all even…

CIMG2099(Mike playing a shot between the biggest mushrooms I’ve ever seen, at least until he hit the ball)

On #16 Rick and Steve are up +3, on #17 Terry and Mike win 2 and are now just down -1 standing on #18… and at the end, as amazing as this might sound… Rick and Steve fend off Terry and Mike winning up +2. It was a great match. (Of course I was on the winning team which gave me a different perspective on the match)

Portmarnock may not have been the most elegant course we played, but it was a great track and continued to challenge you at every turn. How they got 16 holes to play INTO the wind I’ll never know! The Club was founded in 1894 I think… needless to say; they’ve had some time to figure it out.

What a great track to end on…

Sunday was our day to play the K Club. Yeah, I know… earlier blogs said that we were playing the K Club before the European Club but I was wrong. (hard as that is to believe). While the K Club is far from the birthplace of golf, in a way you could say it is the birthplace of our trip to Ireland.

Back in 2006 the Ryder Cup was played at the K Club (I never did find out what the K stands for) and Ron and Jane had joined a tour group that had ventured across the pond to witness the event. It was during this trip, while the Europeans were trouncing the Americans, that the idea for a Fairwood trip was first incubated. Who would go was an unknown, but Ron and Jane were very specific in how they wanted this trip to transpire. It was always billed (isn’t that the truth) as a “first class event”… complete with 5 Star Hotels and the best golf Ireland had to offer. (Special note to Ron and Jane: thank you so much for all your time and effort. This was a fantastic well organized trip and I can’t imagine anything I’d have done differently… we all thank you for a life time of memories!)

Their Ryder Cup experience had been arranged by Premier Golf and of course that’s who was contracted to put this trip together as well. You probably don’t find this hard to believe since we’ve been talking about this trip constantly (I think some people thought we went last year!), but the trip has been in the works for nearly a year now. Ann at Premier Golf did a fantastic job and the trip couldn’t have gone smoother.

I know I’ve really gotten way off track now (wasn’t I talking about the K Club?), but before I get the train turned around I really have to say something about our bus driver, Chris.

I never would have thought about a bus driver being an integral part of such a tour. Ron and Jane had raved about their previous driver and I thought, great… he can get us from Point A to Point B without taking too many side mirrors off the cars passing us on the narrow Irish roads! Boy was I wrong… Chris was instantly integral to making our trip enjoyable. While traveling between golf courses and new towns, he told us about the history of Ireland and pointed out so many numerous points of interest they are now just a blur… but I remember thinking “how can one person know so many intricate facts and stories, not to mention being able to pronounce all of those words”?

In addition to adding the tour aspects of our trip, while we were out golfing; Chris was busily working away to make sure we had dinner reservations (can you imagine walking into a place and asking “table for 16?”)… all perfectly timed to coincide with our golf matches including leaving us some time to hoist a few afterwards. And when we boarded the bus after golf, there was always an ice chest full of ice awaiting the partier’s in the back of the bus. (Who, of course, graciously shared their good fortune with the front of the bus.)

Chris (Thanks for the picture Susan… Chris loading up on ice!)

In addition, there were three days when not everyone played golf. Chris went out of his way to make sure they had activities to keep them occupied and told yet more stories of the history and culture of Ireland. I know that they all found this time with Chris very special.

So in retrospect, while Chris did a fantastic job of getting us from A to B, he did so much more and even Ron and Jane admitted that he was far better than the previous driver… Cheers to you Chris!!! You’re the Best!!!

Will someone please send me a picture of Chris to post on the blog? We’ve got to get his picture and it seems like he was always working to get us out on the course and I never got a picture of him… how sad it that? I have no picture of Chris with Sandi and me!

So finally… back to the K Club. As in all the previous posts, I won’t go into a lot of detail. The web site for the K Club tells it much better than I could. But I will tell you that of all the courses we played, it was the most different. It is the only “inland” course we played and for that reason it is described as a parkland course. (I thought Chris kept saying a Parker course, but sadly, no)

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It is similar in nature to playing Fairwood, but designed by Arnold Palmer. (Fairwood was not…) Tree lined fairways, lush green fairways and roughs, a few small lakes and bunkers placed strategically on each hole. The day we played couldn’t have been better. Minimal wind, no rain… you would have thought we’d have torn this course to pieces and shot our lowest scores of the trip since it was so similar to our home course. We came close, but those strategically placed bunkers and lakes were put there for a reason I guess.

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Another fabulous course!

 

Bus trip Cork to Dublin

Our travel day… (yes I have some catching up to do but thought I’d go ahead and at least get something down before I forget. On our travel day we were moving from Cork to Dublin and Chris our driver did a great job of showing us the sites along the way.

 

Of course one of our stops had to be Blarney, home to the Blarney castle and more importantly the Blarney Stone. Tradition says that those who kiss the Blarney Stone will be blessed with the gift of gab though I understand the actual translation is the “gift of eloquent speak”… so we all asked Mike to please run up the stairs of the castle and kiss it quickly! Please!!

 

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I personally think the real gift of gab goes to the guy that could convince millions of tourists to pay €10 each to climb to the top of a castle, lean out backwards and upside down over a hole in the castle floor and kiss the side of the wall! Now that is the gift of gab… but something you have to do if you are in the area. Here’s a couple of shots of our group… and one taken from the ground looking up and then zoomed in to put it all in perspective.

 

IMG_0980  Larry receiving the "gift".

 

CIMG2032 view from below CIMG2033 Rick gets the "gift".

 

Following the castle, the Visigoths once again descended upon the unsuspecting shop owners in the Blarney Mills, wielding their credit cards like swords and leaving no sales rack untouched.

 

Of course the bus rides have been great fun. There has been a bit of a “class” issue, with the partiers delegated to the back of the bus, while the more gentile of the group drank their potions from crystal with linen table cloths and napkins up front, but we’ve made due with what we had… Terry acting as both Ambassador (from the back seats) and Purser, making sure the front of the bus was adequately served.

 

CIMG2051 Rick re-enforcing the "gift". CIMG2052 Playing GoLo.

 

Too many funny stories to recount, but I’m sure they will come up as we relate our adventures in person.

European Club

So I’ve skipped a day in the sake of keeping up with our travels. Yesterday was a travel day and we didn’t play any golf… just a ride from Cork in the south of Ireland to Dublin in the northeast. The bus ride was enjoyable and aside from a few incidences, fairly uneventful… well not really uneventful, just your typical Fairwood get together. Suffice it to say, there was alcohol on the bus.

 

At one point, Sandi noted the dense fog had rolled in… and just as quickly it rolled back out as we passed an entirely white semi on the highway… but you had to be there to get the full effects of such an observation.

 

Today we played the European Club. If Lahinch was cyclonic winds, the group is in general agreement that these were winds of biblical proportions. Then add the torrential rain… and we have the highest scores of the trip. But I’m not really sure that fully describes our conditions.

 

Here’s the honest to God truth. In order to get Padraig Harrington in shape to play The Open, the European Club was selected as the site of the Irish PGA held just the week before. Appearantly the crew from the European Club went over to Royal Birkdale and looked over the course… setting up the European exactly the same… and as we all know, it worked. Harrington won the British!

 

Now since that time, it has done nothing but rain… and rain hard! So the greens crew has not been able to cut back anything… the first cut was 8 to 10 inches deep. Hit a drive just off the fairway and good luck finding it… and if you went beyond that, you were in 12 to 20 inch deep grass. Not even Donn Pascoe could find any complaints in the rough here!

 

CIMG2056 (Carol Holm in sand trap. Notice the length of the rough near the fairway and this is the first hole!)

 

We were basically playing in conditions that were more difficult than what you saw in the British Open. No one will ever complain about the rough at Fairwood again!!!!

 

See the Photo section for more pictures.

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