In-form Ruaidhri McGee would have every right to feel aggrieved after giving up his spot in this week’s Made in Frederikshavn Challenge through no fault of his own.
What was meant to be the first of four events failed to get off the ground, or at least McGee’s clubs did, left behind in Dublin airport chaos as he jetted off on tour.
However, in the end, McGee was counting himself lucky with clubs back in hand with the horror stories of his peers highlighting just how damaging the situation could have become to his DP World Tour aspirations.
“I’m just relieved to get them back to be honest,” said McGee.
“I know a few of the guys last week were on an SAS flight and they didn’t get them back until eight days later, and had to fly back to Dublin to get them.
“So I knew once they didn’t get on the plane that there was a good chance they were just sitting in Dublin. I wasn’t going to get them back unless I went home and we had four weeks to go on the road so I knew I had to get out of this first event and try find them.”
Ruaidhri’s mother, Moira, sent out the SOS signals on social media in her son’s absence, and although it didn’t receive Shane Lowry levels of pandemonium, it was nonetheless effective.
“I saw she was doing it after the fact,” McGee laughs after a loving sigh.
“We just got very lucky in the end at the airport. My dad came down to meet us and he just happened to talk to a couple of guys going into the back near arrivals – nowhere near baggage handling – and he told them the story.
“They took his number – not knowing if we’d ever see or hear from them again – and an hour and a half later, sitting their thinking we might not be getting them, the lads walked out with the bag.
“We couldn’t believe it. We were told next Friday would be the next delivery to the warehouse. That would’ve been two events at least missed.”
There were those wondering why McGee didn’t roll the dice with a rental set.
“That’s not as easy when you’re 6 foot 4,” he says. “It’s nice to be tall but there’s the downside!”
A PING tour truck on site did offer a standard set of stiff irons – not that McGee even plays PING – but even tempted by a makeshift set for one week, he knew there was no chance of being reunited with his regular bats ahead of the following event in Sweden. That said, McGee decided that the only option was to fly home and find them.
And with clubs now in hand, a new plan to fly out of the more dependable Terminal 2 with Aer Lingus, and Apple air tags purchased to track the bag should it go missing again, McGee is raring to go having missed just one cut from seven starts on the Challenge Tour this season.
It’s been a remarkable resurgence for the now 31-year old who was side-lined from competitive golf for the best part of two years waiting for his U.S. green card application to come through in Florida.
“We went over at the start of 2021 and the plan was to do three months and start the Challenge Tour season,” McGee recalls.
“There was still no certainty around the schedule because of Covid so I ended up staying, went through the green card process, and once I started that, I couldn’t travel, I wasn’t allowed to leave the country, and I couldn’t work in the country until I got it.
“It was about 14 or 15 months of that so we were just hanging out in Florida, but look, it all worked out really well.
“In a way it was nice to take a break from competing. Now all I want to do is go and play events whereas before I didn’t feel like I wanted to do that at all so it’s been good.”
It’s been better than good. McGee returned after a near two year absence at the Emporda Challenge and after an understandably shaky opening 76, he followed up with an electrifying 10-under 62.
After an eventual T20 there, a week later he went one shot better in Bretagne, opening with a stunning 61 before taking second. There’s been a T6 finish at Le Vaudreuil in there too and all told, the towering Rosapenna man lies 30th on the Challenge Tour’s Road to Mallorca knowing the top-20 at season’s end earn promotion to the main tour. So, has he surprised himself?
“I played a bunch of golf in Florida before I came back,” he says.
“I was playing well and I ended up getting a handicap for playing in all the games we play in. My handicap is either plus-9 or plus-10 at the minute! I was shooting low scores all the time so I guess my form has been a continuation of that.
“I’m just trying to simplify golf. It’s no different playing in Florida or here. You go out and hit the ball. There’s not much more to it!”
Having his wife, Madeline by his side as caddie has certainly helped in that regard.
“It’s just nice to be able to travel together,” McGee says. “We go and live our lives once the golf’s done. And to be honest, I couldn’t imagine doing it on my own.
“The guys who are out there married with kids, I don’t know how they do it. Just for me personally, it would be hard work to be away all the time and it would be very strange so we’re very lucky to be experiencing it all together.”
There’ll be no luck should McGee find himself within that top-20 and part of the Challenge Tour’s graduating class of 2022.
“That’s the big goal now,” McGee says. “Really all I’m trying to do is win now and the rest of it will take care of itself.
“It’s very easy to get into the trap of staring at the rankings every week and worrying about it. We’re just thinking about trying to win events and hopefully at the end of it all, it will figure itself out.
“I feel 100%. I’m just hoping to get over the line now as soon as possible.”
McGee returns to action (fingers crossed with his clubs) at next week’s Dormy Open in Sweden.