Monday, April 19, 2010

A Long Trip

I’m writing these words travelling on a ferry between Dublin and England. My plan was to spend two days in Ireland on work. The volcano ash struck. I was sitting in a Ryanair plane on Thursday ready to return to Brussels when we were suddenly disembarked. I rescheduled for Saturday, but that plane was cancelled.

I couldn’t even get a ferry out yesterday – so I took the train south of the Irish capital to a seaside town of Bray. The weather was perfect, crisp, with sharp blue skies. The train passed along the seaside, with lush vegetation framing rocky beaches. Along the way, I spotted golf course after golf course.

When I debarked, I took a walk along the coast, enjoyed lunch in the sunshine – and then strolled over to the municipal course called the Dargle View Golf CourseThe clubhouse was a ramshackle affair manned by two elderly, unshaved men speaking in a thick Irish accent.

“Play a round?,” I asked.

“Sure,” they answered.

“I don’t have shoes, clubs and balls,” I warned.

“No problem.”

I paid 25 euros, about 35 dollars, and soon enough shoes missing spikes and a bag full of ancient clubs arrived. The driver had a wooden head.

Before the first tee, I chatted with some fellow local duffers. They asked about golf in Belgium. I explained how the game had an elitest image there. No Dargle View public walk on golf courses exist; only private clubs do. But they reminded me that Ireland has been forced to work hard to overcome its own golfing social divide. Not long ago, the game was the stronghold of the Protestant; only recently has it been opened to Irish of all religions.

The course itself was a nine-hole, somewhat ragged affair, shoehorned against the train tracks. But four of the holes had generous views of the sea. On this sunny day, perfect for golf, the stroll was refreshing. I hit some great shots and finished only three over par for nine holes.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Another Championship

Sam played the last two days of the Junior interclubs. His Sept Fontaines team won the national championship last year with him playing number one. This season, they are odds-in favorite. But in his first match with the team (he missed the first two days of competition at school), Sam won the deciding match, on the 19th hole.

“I played some good shots and some bad ones,” he sad. “Very erratic.”

I am in Ireland for work and follow only from a distance. The next day, the Sept Fontaines team wins the national championship. But Sam lost his two matches and is despondent about his play. In his last match, he was four up with five holes to play. Sept Fontaines already had won the match and he lost his concentration. In the end, he lost by a hole.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Tough Rounds

After such a promising start to his season, Sam is struggling.

He crashed out of the French Boys, shooting two rounds in the 80s. In contrast, his two Belgian buddies, Thomas Detry and Thomas Pieters, made it to the finals and semifinals. When Sam returned home, he said he was still happy. “I had a good time,” he said.

The following week, he failed to make the cut in the AFG Grand Prix. He missed by a stroke. I was out chaperoning friends and he played by himself. On the first hole, he said he chipped to a meter – and then three putt. Double bogey. Later in the round, he hit a terrific second shot to a meter from the hole – only to realize that he had hit the wrong ball. He returned to his first shot and hit another terrific shot, taking a two stroke penalty and ending with a bogey. In addition, his putting remained erratic.

After the match, he was crushed. So was I. He had prepared so well for the season. Yet he now admitted that he totally lacked confidence.