St. Patrick’s Day & Golfing in Ireland: Brilliant

St. Paddy’s Day is just around the corner!

That thought actually came to me on what had to be my 35th swing in a sand trap. (Okay, it was probably more the 67th swing, but don’t tell the guys.) Why did that thought come to mind? Why not? My therapist told me before anger boils to the top, think of something positive for a good 10 seconds. And I like St. Paddy’s day.

I finally hit the ball and, before I could embrace the moment, saw it was nothing but air mail. I thought about my therapist’s advice and, upon realizing she wasn’t there, disregarded it. I proceeded to release a slew of not-so-nice words. Later that day, my father would tell me Mum’s ears burst into flames at almost the same time I was on the green cursing everything that moved. As he chased her around with a glass of water, he wondered what I’d done now.

I assured Dad I had no idea what he was babbling on about. I’d spent the day studying the scriptures and resented the insinuation.

After the insulting conversation, I took a swig of ale and found myself again wondering about St. Paddy’s Day. I love St. Paddy’s Day. Embracing all things Irish to celebrate … well, being Irish.

It had been a recurring thought, combining two of my favorite things: golf and St. Patrick’s Day. What could be better? I decided it was about time we went ahead and did it. I went to my bud, Sal O’Malley. (Yes, he owns a bar. And, yes, thinking it still makes you kind of racist.) I told him about my idea, something we’d talked about doing for years and how it was time to take the dive. To look into some Ireland golf courses and fly out to the Emerald Isle.

“Sorry, bucko” he said. “Already got plans.”

I figured maybe he was going to hit the parade on Fifth Avenue. Sal said that was pretty racist.

“No,” he said. “I’m gonna be in the old country playing golf on St. Paddy’s.”

Red cheeked, I accused the rotten Mingr of stealing my idea.

He ignored me and went about dealing with customers at the other end of the bar. I assumed he’d come back to me. After all, he’d just dropped this bombshell β€” my idea! β€” and was obligated to give me β€” his best … close … golf colleague β€” the 411. But Sal didn’t come back. He didn’t even glance my way. He just served drinks and cackled with strangers as if everyone loved him like money.

Gawd, he annoyed me.

I finally and subtly waved Sal to come over. Well, I yelled at him to get over here after I’d tried the wave a few times. He came over. I straight out asked him about his plans for St. Paddy’s. I didn’t ask why he didn’t include me, his bestest golf colleague. Not yet.

Apparently, Sal and some of our golf friends were going on about hitting a championship course in Northern Ireland and had spontaneously decided to go ahead and do the deed. They’d been planning and coordinating the whole thing for about six months. Put together a couple of nice packages and had narrowed it down to two. Sal reached under the bar, brought up a manila folder and pushed it across the bar.

Pretending I didn’t really care, I opened it. There was a lot of information about two of Ireland’s best greens. The first was for St. Patrick’s

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Golf Club in Downpatrick. My left eye twitched just a little. I’d been talking about playing there for years. The PGA North of Ireland Championship had been held there for a few years. Membership was kind of pricey, but it included live entertainment, quiz nights, barbecues and other special events. They have some great visitor fees and the package came with discounts at places like the Denvir’s Hotel and the Slieve Donard. If qualified, visitors could even enter open competitions. I’d read the restaurant was top notch and Sunday’s Carvery menu was to die for.

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The other package was for Waterville Golf Links in County Kerry. Portions of Waterville was built on revered land where secret church services were held in the 18th century. Certain religious services were punishable by death back then, so when it was time to build the par-5 11th, workers refused to do it because the ground was considered untouchable. They ended up moving the hole. The course was renovated about ten years ago, giving the green better angles for play. There’s a demon of a par-3 and the final three holes have the Atlantic as a backdrop. I’d always imagined it must be a great sight, playing with an ocean view.

I hate to admit it, but by time I’d finished reading, I was pretty peeved. I’d been playing with these guys for years. We’d talked a thousand times about playing some Ireland golf courses. That they were going to go ahead and do it without me… well, I can’t say how it made me feel.

It was my wife that gave me something else to think about. Claire sat up with me for hours trying to figure out what might have gotten me on the outs with the guys. I’d made a joke about Sal’s wife’s new dress last time we were on the course, but that was nothing. Besides, like I said, the guys had been planning for months. Who remembers what they had for breakfast, let alone who they offended that long ago?

My wife convinced me to take the high road. If they were going, let them have a good time and let me be there at least in spirit. Agreeing, the next day I started looking for gifts to send the boys off with. I weaned it down to the best five.

tee tie. tie. Of the group, Sal was the only nut to wear a tie on the course. He looked ridiculous, but I couldn’t help seeing him love this.

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Mullingar Pewter Golf Whiskey Flask. Let’s face it. If there was going to be golfing on St. Paddy’s, there was going to be imbibing. Made in Ireland, I couldn’t imagine any of us not being able to put this to good use.

GolfDotz. GolfDotz is a collection of stickers you can use to personalize your balls. Letters, numbers, paws, scorpions and more fun stuff.

Personalized Irish Blessings. I have one of these hanging at work and my home office. Customized images of some beautiful greens with some cool quotes. Many of the guys had admired them.

Personalized Family Coat-of-Arms Irish Pub. Couldn’t resist this one. In fact, bought one for myself.

As St. Paddy’s was coming up quick, I had everything rush shipped so I could hand them out before their trip.

After our next game, we were sitting in a pub and I decided to do it. You wouldn’t believe how touched they were. Sal put the tie on over his “I Love Ireland” tee. We were hugging it up before it got real quiet. I told them to not be sissies about this and let’s go get another ale when they suddenly spilled I was going with them. Turned out the whole trip was my wife’s idea and she was arranging for me to go as an early birthday surprise. In fact, Sal had shown me the final two so I could unknowingly make the final decision.

I was shocked! Me and my buds were going to play Ireland golf courses. Without the wife and kids. Was it Christmas too?

After another round of hugs, quiet again.

“Go ahead,” Sal told me, “you can cry.”

I shoved a quick elbow at my eye, making it clear I wasn’t crying.

The guys let me know Claire told them about the night I sat up and ranted. Somehow, the little woman had given these Mingrs the impression I might have dropped a tear or four.

I did three things at that point: (i) I made it quite clear I don’t cry. (ii) I made it quite clear we needed to get back inside and buy another round while I was still in the mood to be around these funny guys. (iii) I made it quite clear (to myself) I needed to send a priority text to my wife about talking too much.

That night, we were up later than most. We couldn’t stop talking about the trip. Someone mentioned checking out the Saint Patrick Centre, but there was a lot more talk about Dick Macks Pub or The Laurels Pub & Restaurant or any pub within swinging distance of a golf club. There was some chatter about maybe getting to the green early and finding time for the St. Patrick’s Carnival Parade & Concert.

I just knew whatever we did, it was going to be one of the greatest times of my life.


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