PGA Tour players don’t take golf vacations. Well, obviously it seems like their entire life is a golf vacation. But the fact is that they don’t hop on planes with their buddies to go play Bandon or Pebble very often at all. Mostly they just don’t have time. Secondly, how often do you take vacations to your office? That is why so many golfers hunt or fish or slide down mountains at death defying speeds.
So nearly a decade after my last golf tournament played I was pretty excited a year ago when Matt Adams invited me to join his excursion to Ireland with listeners of Fairways of Life and Maginnes on Tap. I had been to Dublin for the Ryder Cup at the K Club years before but didn’t get to play any golf. My only reluctance about the trip was the idea of going with Matty and 14 strangers. By dinner the first night those misgivings were quickly put to rest.
I was a day late to the trip and my clubs were two days late. I met the crew at Tralee after the overnight flight from New York. I had not been to bed. I was in jeans, a button down shirt and had a blazer and a back pack. Nothing else made it to Shannon on my flight. When the boys arrived at Tralee, Matty told me not to worry and we’d get things sorted out.
The Head Professional and the General Manager scrounged me up a set of clubs, (Matty knows everyone in Ireland,) and after a few purchases in the pro shop we embarked on my first day of true links golf. I was immediately transformed, awed and amazed. The golf was even more spectacular than I had imagined. Modern golf in Ireland doesn’t really exist. Architects like Palmer and Norman don’t attempt to put their own stamp on links golf. It was perfected a long time ago. They take what is given by nature and design accordingly.
And the ancients like Old Tom Morris are still well represented. Lahinch has two of the original Old Tom holes including the famous blind par 3 fifth hole. Making 2 on that hole the first time I played it stirred emotions on the golf course for me that I considered long dead. It was thrilled to find that they had simply lain dormant for years.
If the golf was inspiring and perhaps even life affirming (to steal a phrase from Matty) it was the people who really made the trip. Our group was a collection of men from their early 30’s to their 70’s from all over the country. Bound by golf and a love of travel, the entire group of strangers became fast friends before the motor coach pulled out of our second stop.
The final element that made the trip so memorable was the people of Ireland themselves whose hospitality was only outshined by their humor. At the White House Pub in Kinsale I was nursing my first beer after playing Old Head. I asked the barman if he would be so kind as to share the WiFi password with me and he told me to, “buy a beer”. A little taken aback at the first hint of rudeness in Ireland I sheepishly explained that I had a beer. A large smile overtook his face and he said, “no, no my friend. The password is buy a beer.” The Irish sense of humor.
In the town of Lahinch, which Ken Venturi called the greatest “one street town in the world”, we were informed that the pub doors are locked at 10 PM on Sunday night. Dismayed that we would be forced to call it an early night we were then informed that the pubs did not close at 10. No, if you were inside you could stay until dawn. But you must be in the pub by 10 and can’t go from one to another. They like to keep the drunks off the street, particularly on Sunday.
Last night I was part of an e-mail chain of travelers from last year. At least a half dozen of last years travelers are packing their bags to cross the Atlantic and do it again. Last year we confined our trip to the Southwest of Ireland. This year we start in Shannon and work in a long northeasterly arc to Dublin. Ten days of sun and rain, Guinness and Whiskey, golf and lies and pure unadulterated fun. From the Emerald Isle I will check in here at Back9 Network as much as possible. Pictures and commentary from the trip of a lifetime… which I am so fortunate to take for the second time.
John Maginnes played the PGA Tour from 1996 to 2005 and very few people noticed. Since 2004 John has been a broadcaster and writer for a variety of different outlets. Currently John host’s Maginnes on Tap weekday evenings SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio. He also contributes to the live coverage of PGA Tour events. Most recently he has become a contributor to Back9Network and brings his knowledge of the game, his wit and his pension for 19th holes to our members.
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