Friday, August 28, 2009

Roll out the carpet at Killeen Castle

This is my review of Killeen Castle, to go alongside the reviews in my book.

It’s impossible not to be overwhelmed by the Killeen Castle experience. It is a magnificent venue with first class service, and there’s that air of perfection everywhere. What else would you expect from a Jack Nicklaus course! Trees form a dense perimeter around this handsome and vast estate. They make the golf course feel very open, but that is only because of the huge area covered by the course itself. It’s a mesmerising place and on the opening holes you have long walks to tees that show it all off to its best advantage.

It’s so large, in fact, that you rarely see other golfers.

Not surprisingly, the castle is the centrepiece (see my Flickr photos or read my previous blog) and you come back to it on a number of occasions, notably 18 where it forms a stunning backdrop. But on this gently undulating landscape everything works, and I loved the way lush, green fairways streaked through the fields of silver and gold. The water features are so pretty they could have been painted.

What about the golf? You will learn a lot about the course from the 1st tee (where you will be accompanied by a member of the Golf Services team for your pep talk). Look down the carpet-like fairway and you will notice the bunkers. Lots and lots of them. They are big, deep and treacherous. With so much water around, I am reluctant to say they are the course’s main defence, but approaching most greens your eye will always be searching for the bunkers and they will prove magnetic. And yet it is the bunkers that push up the pristine greens to give them their beautiful shapes.

Despite the heavy bunkering there is something almost soporific about Killeen Castle. Perhaps it is the lazy flow around the state, or simply that every golf hole is easy on the eye, as fairways drift into the distance. There are few doglegs (17 and 18, along with the wet par three 16th, make for a stunning finish) so you can see what you have to do from the tee box.

Is it tough? Yes, but this is more about elegant, relaxing golf – like Mount Juliet, but more so. There’s plenty of room to err on your drives, as fairways are generous, but the approaches are far trickier because of the bunkering and water. I guess you might say that Killeen Castle gives you plenty of opportunities to revel in a beautiful golf course, while lulling you into big mistakes.

The words I would use to describe this course are ‘idyllic’ and ‘corporate’. There is a certain element of style over substance, i.e. it is not dramatic, dynamic golf, like Druid’s Glen, but it is accessible to everyone and it is an experience to be savoured. There are four tees to choose from, so choose wisely.

There’s also the impressive Dave Pelz Scoring Game School.

Favourite hole: Par five 12th 505 yards (blue tees). The dense trees run down the left and give you a great target as they then curl right, showing you the way. It is the risk v. reward on the second shot that makes the hole, as Rock River tumbles in front of the green. An enchanting setting (fairy tree and all).

Toughest hole: Par for 17th 428 yards. The lake that gives this hole its shape is as dangerous as it is beautiful. The dogleg curves around it and you get to choose how much to bite off. The green is not easy to attack either, with a small rise to the surface that may pull your ball into the water.

Points:

Course Design 18

Appeal 9

Greens/Fairways 10

Bunkers/Water 10

Location 7

Facilities 10

Value for Money 10 (€100)

Golf Experience 20

Total: 94

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Killeen Castle - at last

For anyone who hasn’t read my blog, Killeen Castle and I have been having a bit of a head-to-head for the last twelve months or so. I wanted to play and review it for my book; they didn’t want to know. I won’t go into the whole saga again, but when my dad’s birthday came up I thought I’d take him somewhere he’s never been. And, at the same time, I’d get to play one of the two courses I haven’t played in Ireland, as well as doing it under the radar. OK, so I had to pay (having not paid anywhere else), but let’s not quibble.

If you want to cut past the tale of the trip, you’ll find my course REVIEW on a separate blog.

Along with Chris, a friend of ours, we headed off on August 24th. We made good time and ended up pulling into the club well over an hour ahead of our tee time. The first thing we encountered was a security barrier. They must get lots of trouble out here, I thought, seeing as they’re miles away from anywhere. I wound down the window as a man, ably assisted by a clipboard, walked towards us. It looked serious. “Names.” I obliged, for all of us. He peered in and found Chris in the back seat, under golf clubs, bags and trolleys. He wrote some notes on the clipboard, and then introduced himself as Sean.

“We have one rule here at Killeen Castle,” he said, poker-faced. “No slicing, no hooking and no losing balls.” Stop it, Sean, you’re killing me.

It turns out the barrier is one of those 1970s movie barriers, made out of plywood. He walks over and pushes it at one end, and up it swings.

[Photo: the dogleg 17th whips around the water]

We’re met by John from ‘Golf Services’ at the clubhouse, and he takes our clubs, directing us into the pro shop to pay our dues. From there we head to the restaurant for a quick bite. Soup and sandwiches was the extent of the menu on what looked like a quiet day. John had said there could be 240 golfers on the course and you’d think you had the place to yourself. Hmm, sure, I thought.

The food arrived and it was seriously large. Tina said she’d wrap anything we didn’t eat so we could take it onto the course. It was evident that this happened a lot, but not this time. Chris and Dad finished their club sandwiches with ease. Just as well at the prices we were charged. €56 for three soup and sandwiches, a coke and a glass of beer goes into my ‘over the top’ category. But it was good at least.

From the clubhouse window we could see flashes of three or four different holes (1, 2, 17 and 18 as it turned out) and it began to build that big occasion expectation. I love the experience at Mount Juliet, Jack Nicklaus’ other Irish course, and it was all going the same way here.

[Photo: the par three 16th]

Outside the clubhouse, John was waiting with our bags. We were offered tees/pencils/pitch repairers, so we filled our pockets, bags and baseball caps – as you do. Then he said ‘follow me’, and off he zipped in his buggy, down the path and to the first tee. He gave us a quick pep talk about the dos and don’ts, and where facilities were located around the course. Loos were at 7, 10 and 14. There were also phones in case we needed anything. That made me laugh. ‘Hi, can I get a cream cheese bagel to go.’ The irony of it would hit me only later.

And off we went. The course is beautiful. It is sheer elegance and everything has been done to make you think these thoughts time and again. At times it’s like you’re flowing along on carpet. The castle is also on view on several occasions, which just adds to the whole thing.

[Photo: back up the 1st to the castle]

There’s a story that when Jack came back to do his ‘snag list’ on the course, every time he waved his arms at something, it cost €20,000. And he waved his arms a lot. Some say to the tune of €20 million. Well, you can easily believe it when you see what’s been done here. The place had been ‘chosen’ to host the Solheim Cup in 2011, even before it had opened and there’s a distinct feel that hole design has incorporated spectator viewing needs. Not that there’d be a problem with that. The estate is vast, and John’s earlier comment about not seeing other golfers was bang on the money. Oceans of space.

There are four lots of tees. The Black tees measure in at 7677 yards, Blues at 7142, Whites at 6535 and Greens at 6118. What completely different experiences, especially on the par threes and fives. On 7 and 12, two par fives, I reached the green in two. From the whites they were just 460 yards. But the bunkers are the same wherever you go. Deep and treacherous. Dad found himself in one on the par three 6th and it had no intention of letting him out. He hit half a dozen good shots that kept hitting the lip eight feet above him. Take this as my warning to stay well clear of them.

Our golf varied considerably, from good to bad to ugly. Several balls ended up in water and there was always a sense of dread when a shot started heading for a bunker. On more than one occasion we played out of one only to land in another.

[Photo: Gone fishing]

I’ve been having a bad run recently. My memory isn’t what it used to be. In my last three rounds of golf I have left four golf clubs behind me on greens. Fortunately my playing partners know I’m a ditz and keep an eye out. Brian came to my rescue three times on Saturday, but unfortunately he wasn’t with us on Monday. So, when I reached the 13th green I noticed that my waterproof jacket had decided to find an alternative route back to the clubhouse. At least the rain had long gone and we were going to finish in glorious sunshine.

So, when we left the 14th green, I walked to the ‘facilities’ building, picked up the phone and called the clubhouse. And when we walked off 18, John was there to ask where I thought I’d lost it. I told him and off he went in his buggy. He found it and brought it back – a big thank you to John. Sometimes I think the pampering service you get at big courses is overdone, but there are definitely upsides.

[Photo: approach to the 7th green]

Another of the upsides is the changing facilities. All plush and every need catered for. Sweets in a bowl too (didn’t last long, mind you). But I did get frustrated by the showers: three dials, all different shapes and no indicators as to what they were, and different shower heads to choose from. Clearly I needed a degree in plumbing, or at least a ‘Showers for Dummies’. Turn one and the rose shower head gushed water. Keep turning it and the jets at the side squirted out water as well. Turn another knob and the side jets stopped but the regular shower head burst into life. Now then, which one is the temperature control? Dear friends, I was going to take my camera and take a photo of this masterpiece of engineering, for your delectation, but I feared a naked man in the shower with a camera might raise suspicions in this day and age.

It will cost you in the region of €100 to play here. I would suggest you find out what all the fuss is about.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Your money or your life

So, you fancy a game of golf with some friends, or you're playing in a club competition... but you want to make things 'interesting'.

"Let's have a bet," you say. You all agree and then it comes down to format and value. I typically play €1, €1 and €1 (front 9, back 9 and overall). It's harmless and creates a bit of good-natured niggling, especially when putts are (or more often aren't) conceded. If you play with the same guys on a regular enough basis, the chances are that the money evens out.

It doesn't always work out that way, and things can get a bit fraught is you let them.

I played at Royal Liverpool (Hoylake) in 2006, just before Tiger won the British Open. There were three of us who had been friends for years, and a fourth who I didn't know well. It was agreed that we'd play £5, £5 and £5 in a fourball betterball format. The 4th guy, let's call him Buck, was one of my opponents. I know £15 is not a lot of money, but this is on top of the green fee, hotel and flights, and we had come here to experience the course before Tiger ripped it to bits. £15 is just enough to make things a bit tense when you're coming to the business end of the round. And that's exactly how it turned out.

On the 15th, I had a 12 foot putt to halve the hole. As soon as I struck it I knew it was short... as did Buck. The ball was still rolling and he's celebrating, chanting: 'It's short, it's short'.

I was so angry that I could hardly hit a ball out of my way on the final holes. I paid out my £15 but I learned a lesson - some people take winning money on a golf course far too seriously.

It was no surprise, therefore, that when I found myself on the tee at Mount Wolseley a few weeks later (for a Junior Scratch Cup) and the discussion turned to betting, I was decidedly nervous.

"We're playing for £5, £5 and £5," said John, indicating that there were five of them in on the bet.

Fortunately, I didn't have the chance to answer.

"Hold on a sec, John," said one of the others. "Tell the truth." The guy turned to me. "We're not playing £5, £5 and £5. We're playing £500, £500, £500."

We teed off about five minutes later after they'd picked me up off the ground. Not surprisingly I was not in on the bet.

Their format was not simple: as well as the straightforward bet, there were side bets. If you had a bogey (against your handicap), you paid everyone else €50. If you made a birdie, everyone paid you €100; and an eagle would net you €500 from each of the other four.

So, with one eagle you could afford to play 17 rubbish holes and still walk away €500 to the good.

"What do you guys do?" I asked, thinking stockbrokers, solicitors, bankers.

Nope. Two builders, one carpenter, one plasterer and one farmer who'd sold off all his land to a developer.

That was 2006. Somehow I doubt they're playing for that kind of money anymore. It may still be 5, 5 and 5, but I'm guessing that's in Cent!


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tiger to be fined - Bridgestone Invitational

Another Tiger controversy. This time Tiger criticises John Paramor for putting him and Harrington on the clock on the 16th hole. Harrington accepts that this had some influence on his 16th hole collapse (a triple bogey), but he has also said that the rules are the rules and therefore must apply to the last group as much as earlier groups. Good man, Padraig.

Tiger didn't see it that way. I doubt anyone else who was watching did either. The last pairing were clear of the field. They were locked in a titanic struggle and their focus must have been at 100%. To have an outside party (Paramor) interrupt that focus was both unfortunate and disappointing. It turned a magical battle into a farce.

This is my biggest complaint about the rules of golf: there's no leeway. It's black or white. And while they need to be black or white to avoid misinterpretation or abuse, some of the rules are difficult to understand. In the professional game where rounds can take over five hours, putting players on the clock is perfectly acceptable, but there must be a little leeway - surely. Tiger and Padraig were locked in battle, with massive crowds following them and roaring after every shot. And how far behind were they? Did the fans following them care? Did the players behind them get upset - oh yes, sorry, there weren't any players behind? Were the TV networks concerned that coverage would slip past 6pm and mess up their schedules?

Personally, what John Paramor did was wrong. It was, however, 100% right. He has to apply the rules as they stand, which he did. Good for him; bad for the tournament and Harrington.

It is worth noting that being put on the clock did not have the same effect on Tiger. He may have put his drive in the trees but he still walked off 16 with a birdie.

Now it looks like Tiger's to be fined for speaking out about Paramor's intervention. At the British Open he swears and slams clubs; here he speaks up for what he thinks was a poor decision by the officials. Both times he ends up being criticised by a lot of people. It's not easy being Tiger. I'm not the biggest Tiger fan, but I admire him hugely for speaking up:

"Like I was telling him (Harrington) out there, 'I'm sorry that John got in the way of a great battle,' because it was such a great battle for 16 holes," Woods said. "And unfortunately, that happened."

How anyone can say that Woods' comments were 'utterly classless', is beyond me.

And I admire Harrington for accepting it all so graciously:

"There are rules, and the players make the rules and we've got to apply them. If you're put on the clock, you always want to be nicely in position so you're not having to think too much. I got out of position with my tee shot, my second shot and my third short. I got out of position and just got myself out of the zone...if you're asking a player two or three groups ahead of the lead to play within a certain time frame, it's unfair to give the leaders any leeway."

Section VI-D in the PGA Tour’s player handbook says, “It is an obligation of membership to refrain from comments to the news media that unreasonably attack or disparage tournaments, sponsors, fellow members, players, or PGA Tour.”

I'm sure that fining Tiger is all for the 'good of the game', but why is he not allowed to speak out -it's not as if he was abusive or confrontational. I also don't see how his comments "unreasonably attack or disparage" Paramor. Everyone knows that the rules don't work 100% of the time. Usually we have to listen to the unbelievably dull stuff that golfers spout at interviews: 'I couldn't sink anything', 'my swing was off', 'I left a few shots out there'. Nice to hear something else from the biggest star in golf.

And finally: good to have you back, Padraig,


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Good going at Gowran Park

[Photo: green on the par five 8th]

It wasn’t the brightest thing I’d ever done. I had to get from Greystones to Gowran Park, in Co. Kilkenny, for a 2.10 tee time. Two and a half hours was plenty of time I decided, and thought that I’d go over the Wicklow Gap for a leisurely, scenic drive.But I had forgotten that it was the August Bank Holiday weekend, and it was a Sunday, which meant weekend drivers, tourists and mad motorbikers. I encountered all three as I headed up through Laragh, towards Glendalough and then up over the gap itself (and the setting for the fortress in Matthew McConaughey’s film Reign of Fire) towards Hollywood. Nightmare: the weekend drivers had granny in the back complaining about the bumps if the vehicle went over 25mph; the tourists slowed down and stopped without any warning to look at a passing leaf, and bikers felt no bend was too dangerous to overtake on – usually at 60mph.

[Photo: views across the Gowran Park racetrack. The 7th hole is on the right of the trees, the 17th is inside the track itself]

And then there were the drivers who just wouldn’t get over. I’d flash them, gesticulate wildly, hoot at them and I even rammed a couple, but they remained immune to my diplomacy. So it was no surprise that I arrived late for the Scratch Cup. Fortunately there was a 30 minute free slot behind us, so it made no difference. In which case I am issuing a general apology to all the motorists who I abused along the road.

Mark, one of the lads from the golf forum on www.boards.ie, had arranged two tee times, and I was paired with my old playing partner Neville, who, if you read my earlier Barton Cup post, has moved from Greystones Golf Club to Gowran Park and was on the winning semi-final team over his old club. That was on Saturday; this was the next day, Sunday. The fact that I was a Greystones golfer in their midst didn’t exactly go unnoticed, but since Gowran Park had won, I was spared too much abuse. The other member of our three-ball was Niall, another victor from the previous day. Neville was looking in good form (he’s been to a Barton Cup final before), but Niall, who had never got this far, was looking the worse for wear. Several of the team hadn’t stopped celebrating until 5am, and Niall was one of them. You could have bottled the alcohol coming out of his pores and started your own distillery. Still, here he was, hitting the ball a mile.

[Photo: the par three 5th - please note the position of the trees on the right of the tee box]

We talked about the previous day’s battle as we walked across the racetrack to reach the 1st tee, and we were still talking about it as we crossed the racetrack again to reach the 4th.


For two 4 handicappers and a 7, the standard of golf was not exactly high, and when Niall – to be blunt – shanked his tee shot on the par three 5th, sending it straight up into the trees, he looked remarkably indifferent. On the par four 7th he dumped his third shot into the water and then three putted from ten feet. His comment? “It’s so bad I don’t even have the energy to get angry.” I put my ball in the water on the par five 8th, so I empathised completely. It was that kind of day. And Neville, who had played ‘ricochet’ in the trees on the 7th, wasn’t doing a whole lot better – our combined score on the hole was seven over.

The guys made good pars on the par three 10th, and superb par-saves on the 11th, and it looked like things were getting back on track. Unfortunately we then arrived at the par five 12th – Index 1 – with a drive straight into the wind. Niall pulled his left and Neville pushed his right. Neville’s was plugged in the water hazard and, having decided to play it, he then buried the ball to the point he had no choice but to play a drop. At that point we went to help Niall, and found his ball out of bounds. He looked at his bag, he looked at the green and then back at the tee, and then he looked at his watch. “I don’t think so,” he said.

[Photo: the par four 7th. Looks simple enough at 350 metres doesn't it]

Neville returned to his ball, aimed over the water and boned it onto the small and unreachable island. He dropped another and knocked it over the trees, into the field, and out of bounds. He was now playing his eighth shot with 300 yards to go.

A while later, back in the bar, which is on the top floor and offers great views over the countryside, we had coffee and scones. Niall, who at 30 is the youngest vice-captain I’ve ever heard of, was telling me about a big membership deal that they’ll be introducing shortly. Gowran Park may only be eight years old, but it is a superbly entertaining round of golf, and I hope they get many more members on the back of the offer - it's a great golfing experience. He winced in pain as he was telling us this and it was at this point that I remembered why I so enjoy playing golf with Neville: he’s a physio. He hopped off his bar stool, had a good poke around in Niall’s back and made his diagnosis. I was expecting a recommendation of more alcohol, but it was just ibuprofen.

As we left, the two guys were laughing about what I was going to say on my blog, and I assured them that I would never tell anyone that we gave up and walked in after the disasters of the 12th. And I won’t.

Little known fact: The 16th is a long and very tricky par three that hits over the racetrack. Mount Leinster sits directly behind the hole and if you’re paying attention you’ll notice that the mounding at the back of the green is shaped to mirror the mountain backdrop exactly.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Rain, rain, rain

"It was a dark and stormy night," wrote Snoopy. Standing on the first tee at Greystones, I knew what he meant. It was 5pm and the clouds had that malevolent look, but my buddy, Fin, was over from New York and we had found a time that suited us both.

By the way, the photograph of the 1st was from the Barton Cup match a few days before - it didn't look anything like this last night.

We were joined by Dave, Finbarr's brother-in-law 1, and Stevie, brother-in-law 2. I hadn't seen Dave since Finbarr's wedding, eight years before. He's all grown up now, dresses well and has his own golf clubs - even if he steals Fin's golf balls and 8 iron on occasion... not bad for a barrister, I guess. We were playing skins - 2 cents a skin! Let's be fair, barristers, accountants and traders aren't exactly rich you know.

Stevie joined us on the 4th (he'd come from work), just as the rain that had been lurking all afternoon decided to give a full frontal assault. Of the four of us, only two had umbrellas and only two had waterproofs. Regardless of the 'loaves and fishes' divisions, someone was going to get wet. And it wasn't going to be me - I had an umbrella and waterproofs and guarded them jealously - besides, we were playing for money; any advantage was important.

A brief word about Stevie: he's young, he's built like a tank - when I say his arms are bigger than my thighs, I'm not joking - and he hits the ball as far as anyone I've seen. I hit a 5, he hits an 8 - that sort of difference. My advantage is that the ball usually goes almost straight, whereas he can send nearby villages running for cover. So when he stood on the 8th tee (see photo, again from the Barton Cup, as by this stage you couldn't see the green), with the vista of the Irish sea ahead and the green far below, you knew the ball was going to take a battering. Sure enough, the ball was launched, and the tee smashed to little pieces. "So much for 'unbreakable tees'," quipped Stevie, as the ball headed towards Dalkey, 20 miles to the north. He ran out of unbreakable tees shortly thereafter.

As we played into the 8th green, Fin found himself blocked by three cherry trees, that sit between holes 8 and 9. He played a low running shot that cracked straight into one of the trees. He had to jump to get out of the way of the ricochet. I turned to Dave, as we chuckled at such terrible misfortune. "At least he won't do that again," I said. And sure enough, Fin didn't. He missed that same tree and hit the next one instead, once again diving to avoid a hard white object heading straight back at him.

How we laughed. Roll forward - sorry - swim forward two holes to the 10th, and there's Fin, behind trees. And sure enough, one good swing of the club later and he's leaping sideways as the ball clatters into his trolley. He wasn't best pleased when I pointed out that hitting his own bag incurred a penalty.

Still, he had the last laugh as he picked up three skins on the 14th green - our last hole - making seven skins in all. By that stage the rain was coming down for the night, and there's nothing more miserable than bending over a shot and having water trickle down the back of your neck. We walked in, heads bowed.

No money was exchanged in the bar, as we all agreed (except Fin) that it wasn't worth paying over 14 cent. Fin, in his fury, slapped his credit card down and paid for the drinks and our meal. Unfortunately the kitchen was closed, so we feasted on Pringles and peanuts.

Perhaps it's one of the great levellers - you can play rubbish, get soaked and get beaten, but once you're in the bar, everything's right with the world and you're all friends. That's my kind of game.



Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Greystones and the Barton Cup Semi-Final

Greystones Golf Club were in the final of the Barton Cup in 2005. This is a straight foursomes event, with five pairings, of which two play away and three at home (or vice-versa). The minimum combined handicap, based on the previous year’s handicap, is 14. It is the BIG event in amateur team golf in Ireland.

Back in 2005, we lost to Newlands, but it was so close we could taste it (and other such clich├ęs). So, in 2009, when a good run started, expectations rose with every victory, until we found ourselves playing against Gowran Park in the semi final on August 1st. We thought we had the advantage with 3 matches at home. Not only that, we had Paul Dunne and Cian Madigan as our final pairing: Paul, 16, plays off +2 (and now plays for Ireland); Cian is younger still and has dropped from a 17 handicap to 8. That gave them a ‘combined’ handicap of 6. Unbeatable in this sort of competition – or so you’d think.

But Gowran Park had an ace up their sleeve: Neville Coen. Neville (aka Nev, aka 'traitor'), had been a member of Greystones’ losing side in 2005, and had been a member of the club for years. In fact, we had once been a pairing for the Barton.

He claims he got a great job offer in Kilkenny and couldn’t keep up his membership at Greystones, but I think he took one look at Gowran Park and decided that’s where he fancied playing for the next few years. It’s a great track – in more ways than one. (Gowran Park website).

Neville, off 4, made up the middle pairing for Gowran Park, alongside a young one, named Rioch. And, no doubt, Neville would have offered his team mates some valuable insights because, like any course, there are things at Greystones that visitors simply don’t appreciate. For instance, after you play holes 2 and 3, you don’t really need your driver again until the 9th. And on 4 and 6, positioning off the tee is crucial. As for hole 5, an uphill par three of 100 metres, the high index does not reflect how difficult it really is – if I walk off it with a par, I breathe a huge sigh of relief.

'Home’ advantage can work against you, too, and this was evident on the par four 6th, our Index 3. It is a very gentle dogleg downhill (it’s on the back cover of my book) and you’re aiming left of the bunker on the corner. It’s not a difficult shot and there’s plenty of landing room before the bunker, but the impenetrable gorse on the left and right of the hole just sits in the back of your mind, waiting to make its presence felt when you stand on the tee.

So, when our three guys stepped onto the tee, I have no doubt that the first difficult tee shot would have been causing an increased heart rate. They knew the difficulties. In the first group, Daniel (aged 14) hit a good drive that caught up in the left rough on the hillside. His partner, Shane (another stalwart of the 2005 campaign, who didn’t lose until the final play-off), didn’t have the best stance and found the gorse, requiring Daniel to reload. Hole lost. In the second group, David knocked down his drive, leaving the ball 40 yards from the tee and almost in the gorse. In the third group, Cian’s ball took a nasty bounce and kicked deep into the gorse near the bunker.









His partner, Paul, donned his waterproofs and disappeared into the gorse – he even found the ball, but then had to go a long way back and down onto the 4th fairway to play the team’s third shot. From there it is totally blind.

I watched the match for the first nine holes and saw some great golf. It is always a pleasure watching someone as good as Paul Dunne. It is a beautiful swing and one that you want to imitate. His caddy was his dad, Collie – Shane’s partner in 2005 – and they work brilliantly as a team. Daniel O’Byrne, aged 14, may well follow in Paul’s footsteps – he certainly has the swing. I didn’t see many of young Cian’s or David’s shots, but judging by their stride they are full of enthusiasm for the game and the competitive element.

What about Gowran Park? Three perfect drives. It wasn’t a turning point in the match, but it showed that not knowing a course has its advantages. I’ll also mention that Neville, as the low handicap, had arranged the driving order so Rioch teed off on 6 – canny traitor that he is.

I take my hat off to Tom Kelly, the team manager. He went with youth in his team picks and several of the boys were young teens, whose handicaps had plummeted during the year. After so many wins they would undoubtedly have been bristling with confidence.After nine holes, we were 1 up in two matches, and level in the third. The news from Gowran Park had us 3 up in one and 3 down in the other. It was looking positive but certainly not comfortable.

If you haven’t already guessed, we ended up losing – by a score of 3 and 2. Close, but no cigar.

Losing is never easy, but it will stand to them. It was a great experience and they will improve even further on the back of the defeat. As for the rest of the team, it is never easy to come so far and not go all the way.

Thoughts of opportunities missed and mistakes made will dance around their heads for a few days yet. But as the low guys, they will have plenty more opportunities. Tom Kelly will be gutted. It’s his second year in charge and he did so well. The big question now, is, will he stay on next year.

Finally, to the members of the Gowran Park team, congratulations and best of luck in the final against Clontarf. Neville, I’ll deal with you later.












The Greystones Team:

Home:

Shane O’Connor(3) & Daniel O’Byrne(17)

David Byrne(7) & Tom Hamilton(8)

Paul Dunne(+1) & Cian Madigan(17)

Subs: Niall Byrne(6) & John Darcy(9)

Away:

Kevin Condren(Scr) & Raymond Crotty(19)

Alan Condren(+1) & Shay Hamilton(16)

Subs: Fergie Wheeler(6) & Darragh Browne(9)

Team Manager: Tom Kelly

Team Assistant: Tony Bishop