The last time I visited Ireland, my brother and I chaperoned the old man around the Southwest, taking in the links at Doonbeg, Lahinch, Tralee and Ballybunion. That was nearly three years ago and our timing couldn’t have been better. I don’t want to go all Jim Dodson on you, but my dad has since been diagnosed with lymphoma. He’s hanging in there, but my brother and I are pretty damned glad we took him to Ireland when we did, because his days of walking 18 on consecutive days are in all likelihood behind him.
I’m turning these things, these most recent memories of Eire, over in my mind here in Dublin Airport, waiting on the rest of my party. A leaden gray sky hangs low over the modernist terminal I spy across the street, through massive picture windows. We have a mighty drive ahead of us, once we’ve all assembled — straight up to the island’s northernmost tip, skirting the new golf capital of the world, Northern Ireland, to the links at Ballyliffin. From there a veritable string of equally hallowed venues await.
There will be plenty to write about in the days to come, plenty of memories to be made. I and my comrades in Gortex will be diligent in relaying them to you via word, sound and image. But for now I’m loathe to shake the memories from last time.
I won’t bore you but one moment stands out: That first day we arrived, in Shannon, the three of us promptly headed straight for Lahinch on a beautiful sunlit morning. There is no better cure for jetlag than a round of golf, first thing, right off the plane. As one enters the tiny beach town of Lahinch, it’s not clear to the novice exactly where to find the golf club. We pulled over and asked directions of an older woman.
“Well, it’s right over there,” she said, gesturing to an intersection where we should’ve gone right. The course lay on the high ground just beyond. It proved pretty difficult to miss, but she didn’t press this point.
“Have you a game today? I see that you have. Well, you’ll love it. Absolutely love it. It’s a wonderful golf course and you’ve got a beautiful day for it. Where are you from?”
“Well, I have several relatives living there. They’re not golfers, sad to say. But that won’t matter to you. Just take that right hand turn and the course is on your left. Can’t miss it. Lovely course, lovely weather. You’ll have wonderful day…”
We thanked her profusely, of course, and, duly bathed in the hospitality for which Ireland is rightly famous, we all turned to each other and smiled. We may have giggled. At which point my brother summed it up: “What a bitch.”
We laughed long and hard, then headed off into the dunes at Lahinch.