Replaying a golf course called Ireland
Bestselling golf author Tom Coyne wrote about trekking across Ireland for sixteen weeks in search of the greatest round of golf ever played. He shares his experience and excerpts from his book A Course Called ireland exclusively for Irish America
I took my time and played two balls, trying not to push the threesome, but on the fifth I wandered to the tee box and found a young boy sitting on a bench. He was wearing a soccer jersey and had short brown hair and a pale, freckled face. He couldn’t have been ten years old, and there was no chance that he weighed more than my backpack.
“Do you want to play along?” he said, sounding confident. “It’s slow today.”
I had been used to getting waved through as a single, and was always disappointed when I wasn’t asked to join a group – no matter if it was little old ladies or a pack of club-throwers, it was nice to be asked. His name was Eamon, and after watching their struggles over the opening holes, I was surprised to be asked to join up, but if he wasn’t too shy to shank it in front of a stranger, neither was I.
I thanked him and headed for the back tee box, past where two lads were returning from the regular tee, headed for Eamon’s bench. They were a couple years older, maybe twelve, both of them as skinny as six-irons, a kid named Colin in a Cork jersey and football shorts, and Eamon’s brother Declan dressed in a collared shirt and spikes, the golfer of the group.
“You’re teeing off from the blues,” Declan noted. “What do you play off?”
“I don’t know. Five, six maybe.”
“Five handicap. Did you hear that, Eamon!” Declan announced. They hurried off the tee box and took spots behind the bench, eager spectators. I eyed the fairway of a bending par-four as the gallery carried on.
“I never played with a 5 handicap.”
“What’s yer handicap?”
“I dunno. Maybe 20.”
“You’re a 20 handicap on one hole.”
“I am not.”
“You had a 12 back there. On a par-four.”
I hammered a booming cut down the right side of the fairway to a chorus of, “Whoa! See that? He hits it farther than your dad!”
“Where’d you get that driver?” Declan asked. “Can I have a look?”
I handed it over to him. “Colin, check it out,” he said, showing it off like it was Excalibur, turning the blue shaft in the sunlight. “Gorgeous. How much did it cost?”
“I don’t really remember,” I told him.
“Where are you from?”
“He’s from America, stupid.”
“But where in America?”
“We’ve been to Disney World…”
For five holes the questions came, and I answered them coyly with a smile, playing the reluctant celebrity for them. Declan had an off-balance but consistent swing, and Eamon somehow got the ball airborne with men’s clubs – he looked like he was swinging a javelin. Colin was the quiet one, pipe-cleaner legs sticking out of his white football shorts, he was struggling to keep it moving, and I could tell he was embarrassed.
“He’s a better player than this,” Declan whispered to me on the sixth.
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