That’s a fact. I loved spending time on the course during the summer (and in winter somewhere warm).
I was no Marc Kennedy growing up, I just got beat by him a lot so getting the opportunity to be in the broadcast booth calling curling for TSN years later has been a dream come true. We all have bucket list trips. After what I’ve just shared with you plus my love of Scotch? Scotland is obviously screaming my name.
The journey began October 18th, 2016 in my condo with a blank look on my face as I looked at my empty suitcase. Scotland in late October. Hmm... I knew sunscreen wasn’t really a top priority. Having traveled to Ireland a year before in late September, I knew we could expect anything. Rain, wind, sideways hail, a few hangovers, it was all possible. I packed knee high socks, warm golf shells, 3 toques, and my trusty Galvin Green outfit which is an all-star on these trips. Blister Band-Aids and ibuprofen also were a must.
I touched down in London and caught a flight into Edinburgh. The key to flying over to Europe for me is staying up the entire first day to beat the jet lag. The excitement of checking into Carnoustie was certainly enough to get the adrenaline going. For golf purists, Carnoustie is a must if you travel over to Scotland. Even the best in the world have had their confidence and scores crushed by the wind and bunkers at the home of golf. Carnoustie is a quiet little town on the North Sea Coast with not a lot going on. Our first night we found a little pub serving fish and chips (shocking right?) and got to know everyone on the trip. We had people from Calgary, Saskatoon and Toronto taking part. After a few Guinness we all quickly became great friends and the friendly rivalries formed as we were split into two teams for the golf competition.
After one round of golf, it was time to trade in our clubs for brooms (at least for the day) and head to Forfar Curling Club. Having my Canadian accent which I apologized for a few times, Forfar is actually pronounced 'For-firrr' in Scotland. Roll the tongue! As soon as we walked into the club, it felt like home but with way cheaper bar prices. Mike Ferguson, who was helping run the show with TJ, was not only a world class person but was also on my team. I don’t know how the hell I ended up skipping this hot mess, but we had a pretty good squad and won every game right up until the final. I’m lucky to curl once a year now and to our credit we lost to a local side that had Tom Brewster’s 5th on the squad named Duncan Menzies. The kid could throw rocks. Our powerhouse 4-some known as Team Canada 2 took home the silver medal but more importantly, placed way higher than Cheryl’s team.
That night was something called Curlers Court. Now, I had no idea what we were getting into here, but Scots young and old were giggling like kids before Christmas. We became “made curlers” which I’m actually not at liberty to discuss. If you’re a “made” curler, then you know what I’m talking about.
I was trading messages via text with the pride of Scotland, Eve Muirhead to try to get some inside information and quickly realized people take Curlers Court and their 'Fight Club'-like code very seriously. All I will say is that it involved a goat, my pants coming off and some weird smells (not in that order). It was a hilarious night. What incredible hospitality from some wonderful people who embraced us and made us feel like family.
The Open Championship has been played at the Old Course 29 times, more than any other venue.
That was the year people started playing links golf on this jewel of a property. Our group was excited to make our own history. We had tee times to play The New Course (which isn’t that new) & The Jubilee but we had no tee time on The Old Course. 10 of us put our names in the draw, hoping we would be selected for a chance to walk where the greats of the game once swung and swore. Fingers crossed!
My last tale on this trip is also the best. TJ and I hit the Scottish lottery and found out we’d won the draw to play The Old Course. I was beyond excited but actually felt some guilt that the others in our crew didn’t have their names pulled with us. You can’t bribe someone or fake your name as they need a passport or ID when you check in for your tee time. I’m forever grateful to everyone that was on our trip as they were beyond supportive in our opportunity of a lifetime. TJ (who’s a scratch golfer) had played this course before so I knew I was in good hands. Remember Duncan, the young man who kicked my ass in curling earlier in the trip? Well, it just so happens that he’s a caddy at St. Andrews! He couldn’t be there to caddy for us but set us up with some amazing guys! If you read my blog last year about Ireland, then you know I’m usually NOT a big fan of caddies. That’s my own preference and I hope the World Caddy Union doesn’t send me hate mail. I’ve just had a few bad experiences before but I kept an open mind going into the cold windy day ahead of us.
I met my caddy Greg on the first tee and we instantly got along brilliantly. The first tee shot isn’t exactly intimidating. The first hole shares the fairway with 18 and it’s literally the largest fairway on earth. I asked Greg, “Has anyone missed this fairway before?” He chuckled and said, “You’d be surprised”.
Now, what I’m not used to is roughly 500 people watching us tee off. Everyone from fellow golfers to tourists to people jogging around the course enjoy seeing people either succeed or fail at the home of golf. Thankfully TJ and I both ripped our drives, but we were right into a 40 KM per hour wind off the start. I hit driver, 5 wood and managed to scrape out par.
The last 5 holes really stood out to me. With the sun coming down, you could see the spectacular colors and beauty of the town of St. Andrews in the distance.
The tee shot on 16 was equally weird and brilliant. Both our caddies said, “Aim left and rip it as hard as you can into the fescue”. Likely the first and last time I will ever hear that! They were correct! Right was OB and the fairway was beyond tight. Thankfully the fescue left was very minimal. I actually hit a snap hook by accident and found the fairway! Oh well, more than one way to make par I guess.
The tee shot on 17 is one I will never forget. It’s not often you need to play a hard draw right over a hotel but I actually pulled it off (I’m a lefty).
On the tee, I knew I had a chance to break 80 and TJ had 5 birdies and was likely going to break par. We both wanted to finish strong. He absolutely killed a 3 wood to about 30 yards from the pin. I ripped driver, rolled over the road and had about 80 yards to the hole. I finally hit the best approach of my day, right on the screws and left myself 8 feet for birdie. TJ went with a putter from 30 yards out and rolled the shot brilliantly. He had a 3 footer left. Sadly, we both lipped out but it was a hell of a day that I will never forget! TJ 69. Muddy 80. We thanked Matt and his family for an incredible day and wished them all the best on their journey not only in Scotland but in life.
I hope you enjoyed my story!