Monday, June 2, 2008
Making a point at Ballybunion
[Photo: Fin on 2nd green - Old Course - glorious dunes behind]
Two priests, Jack and John, standing on the 5th tee at Ballybunion…
"I know your grandmother's sister," says John.
Sounds like it should be the start of a joke, but it's not. My buddy Finbarr had come over to play Tralee and the two Ballybunions with me. Tralee was yesterday. Ballybunion Old was this morning and now we were playing the Cashen course. We were in for a seriously long round, and so we hooked up with the two-ball behind us - Jack and John, priests from local parishes and members at Ballybunion. One side of Finbarr's family is from nearby Ardfert, and John knew them. It's a small world when you're playing on a golf course surrounded by Americans.
And from that point on, no matter how hard he tried, Finbarr managed to take the Lord's name in vain on every bad shot. And that was a lot! He'd apologise, of course. Until the next bad shot.
It was a hot day - we had been blessed - and the Cashen course is even more mountainous than the Old course. And with the incredibly long delays it took us two hours 45 minutes to complete 9 holes. Apparently it wasn't the Americans to blame. Five groups of Turks were out on the course, including the professional from Istanbul Golf Club. His mother, it turns out, is from just outside Ballybunion - obviously!
Jack and John had had enough, and Finbarr was feeling the effects of his five hour plus drive from Rosslare to Tralee the previous day, so we all agreed to go in. I was playing fantastic golf
but I wasn't going to continue if it meant another three hours. I decided to hang around, have some grub, type up my reviews and wait until things calmed down. The four of us sat in the bar which offers great views over the 18th (Old) and chatted about how the club was coping with the decline of American visitors and the planned €4 million investment that would see substantial changes on the Cashen course - I had a lengthy chat with the Captain, Tom Corridan, later that night and it's always fascinating to hear what changes are planned and why.
[Photo: Par 4 10th on Cashen] It was after 6pm when I returned to the 10th at Cashen, and I went round in about an hour and a half. Sadly my good form of earlier did not continue, but after playing both courses I am chuffed to say I didn't lose a ball. There was only a light breeze, but even so - the rough here is vicious and some of the dunes are magnets. Playing the Old at 7.36am we took 4 and a half hours to get around and it was the famous 11th where Finbarr stood on the tee and declared: "I haven't lost a ball". Finbarr's a rather nifty 18 handicapper, but even I knew saying that was the kiss of death. Sure enough, two balls disappeared off the tee: one onto the beach, one into the dunes. Silly boy. On the next tee I chastised him for tempting the Gods. To make the point I said you never verbalise such things. “That’s like me saying that I haven’t had a double bogey.” How stupid was I! I’d just birdied 11 to get to 3 over, and I double bogeyed 12. You’d think I ‘d know better. But at least I’d made my point.
[Photo: Tough approach to the Par 4 11th, Index 2, Old Course - regarded as one of the best holes in the world]
I have played a number of courses with Fin, including Royals County Down and Portrush, Portstewart, Tralee, Gleneagles, Wentworth, Hoylake and Carnoustie, and I know he has played the likes of Kingsbarns, Royal Birkdale and several other ‘big’ courses, so when he says that Ballybunion Old is the best of them all, I know he’s speaking from experience. Sadly he didn’t get to play holes 13, 15 and 17 on Cashen, because they are majestic and lethal holes. Maybe another time because I’ll certainly be going back.
[Photo: Green on the edge: Par 5 17th, Cashen, with Loop Head in the distance]