It was that time of year again when we unleashed our list that divides a nation and I crawled under my desk for fear of the backlash in the comment section.
Ah yes, the Top 100 rankings. A compilation of the island’s greatest golf courses, and always a reminder of how few I’ve played.
Truth be told, I don’t know why I hide from the comments. I have no hand, act, nor part in the curation. My opinion was neither sought, nor needed. I’m a mere pleb behind a keyboard. A voice in a world of too many. The shit that did not stick.
That’s not to say my voice hasn’t been heard on occasion. I made the quick journey to Brittas Bay for days one and three of last year’s Flogas Irish Amateur Open at The European Club. I’d heard tales of its intimidation and beauty, and I wrote about both after day one; this Pat Ruddy masterpiece not for the faint-hearted, and certainly not for my 77-year old Dad who I almost lost in the rushes of a grass bank on 13.
I thought nothing of it as I filed my report after the first day; didn’t give a second glance to my description of the hazard protecting the final green: “Looking at it, it felt a bit like someone going to a restaurant and ordering their steak well done. Why kill the thing twice? This hole had more than enough terror to it already.”
I arrived for the final day’s play on Sunday as innocent as a spring lamb. Little did I realise I was heading to the slaughter. Having never met Mr. Ruddy in the flesh, I was introduced to him outside the clubhouse, and the encounter has left a lasting impression!
He was sitting in his golf cart ala Don Corleone, dapper in a wide-brimmed hat.
“What’s this I hear about someone dying on my golf course, Mr. Craven,” he said, alluding to Dad tangled in the reeds.
I was just shocked he knew my name.
“And tell me about my ‘unnecessary water hazard’…”
I think we’re about to get whacked.
What followed was an education, not on how the 18th in a distant way was inspired by the Barry Burn at Carnoustie and nobody gives out about that. More so, it was a timely reminder that words matter, even mine.
And as I stood quiet, gobbling up spoonfuls of humble pie being dished out by this legendary architect, I had to laugh at the audacity of my silly millennial self, criticising Pat’s closing hole as if I had a clue.
“If I had a poison dart at the end of this cane I wouldn’t be long prodding you with it,” he smiled, or at least I hoped he did as he wrote down his number for me to call him once the tournament had finished.
I should point out, despite never meeting Pat, I was of course familiar with his work, and had actually transcribed a long interview with him that popped into my head working on this Top 100 edition of the magazine.
“These wretched magazines,” he said at the time, of which I took no offence.
“Every magazine has a rating now, and one has 800 raters and the rater grates on me because no matter what his handicap is, he phones up and he says, ‘Mr Ruddy, I want to come and play your course, I’m rating the golf courses for the magazine Golfaholic’, and I say, ‘Piss off’!
“If you want to rate it, that’s okay. But come in private, make your opinions. I’m not open to having my underwear hanging on the gate for you to inspect.”
And of course, the purpose of my visit to The European Club wasn’t to inspect the undergarments of Mr. Ruddy either, it was merely to bask in the glory of elite amateur golf being played on his ultimate test. And I got all that, but I also came away with his phone number.
Not for one second did I contemplate not ringing him. If it was up to me, I would’ve sat there listening for hours. He said he would’ve liked for me to introduce myself to him on arrival that first day of competition. That’s how he rolled as a journalist back in the day.
And perhaps I can blame my lack of basic social skills on a pandemic that’s made me forget the little things that count for so much. Thankfully, he said he hoped we could still be friends, apologising for cornering me outside his clubhouse. Him, not realising, it was probably the highlight of my year.
Better still, and I hope he doesn’t cane me for airing our business in public, but he’s even invited me down for a game on the links. So maybe we are friends after all. I sure hope so.
He could’ve just as easily told me to piss off!
*Author’s note – The European Club retained its place at #11 in the Top 100. It’s hard to imagine that there’s ten better courses on the island. You can view the full rankings HERE