• Facebook
  • Twitter

I am disappointed to miss the cut on home soil, but what an event

It was a hardship to turn up to Galgorm Castle Golf Club on Monday to pick up my car for the week - a £180k Lamborghini superlegurra.  It's every boy's fantasy come true, and one of my all time goals!  Cars on Demand, a local super car experiences company were sponsoring the NI Open at Galgorm for the week, they had previously sponsored the Europro event the club had hosted over the past few years and so helped out again this year when the Challenge Tour event was being hosted.  The business is growing, it makes sense to rent one of the supercars for a few days rather than spend £30k a year in depreciation if you buy it, never mind insurance, running costs and repairs.

I'm not sure I really enjoyed it as much as I thought I would; everyone looks at you.  They stare at you and point.  It made me feel a little uncomfortable, especially when I had my name all over the car!  It was nice for a day but I'm not sure I'd want it all the time.  The car itself is super light, has 562 bhp, and does 0-60 in 3.2 seconds.  It really was incredible when you put your foot down but its suspension is a little rigid for everyday use - the road between Galgorm and Templepatrick was a little bumpy!

I'd a busy day on Tuesday, lots of interviews in front of Galgorm Castle for European Tour productions and a couple of interviews; one for the BBC where I had to kick a ball over some water.  I didn't really connect with the ball and duffed it straight in, slightly embarrassing to have it caught on camera and then shown on the Wednesday evening news.  I'd already taken at least 10 folk out in the car and I'd used up a lot of adrenaline keeping it between the hedges! 

It was weird to be staying at home for a tournament, actually in your own bed.  I didn't manage that at Portrush last year as the drive is just too long.  The week is definitely a lot longer when you're at home.  It normally flies by and has a specific routine - airport to course to hotel.  It was a different week for us.  Bev was in charge of getting me to all the locations I needed to be on time.  She'd liaised with the team at the golf course in the run up to the event, organising my diary and agreeing my contribution of media etc.   The Pro-am was on Wednesday as normal; the big names from NI sport and business were all out.  Pat Jennings, Martin O'Neill, David Humphries were amongst the guests. 

My arrival each day was a big event and was definitely embarrassing.  I had my designated parking spot all signed posted and the club members were all inspecting the car once I'd parked up.  It was a little uncomfortable for me, I don't really like that much attention.  I can generally fly under the radar but not this week.  My photo was everywhere and everyone came to speak to me.  I played the pro-am with Ian Webb, who's a member of the R&A, his son Kenneth and Martin another R&A member.  They were all good players and our group had a very good front 9 but fell away on the back 9.  I made a few good putts but my long game was sloppy.  We also had a group of folk from Clic Sargent following us for the round.  The charity had auctioned a caddy experience at a gala dinner in London a few months ago, where a rich benefactor of the charity pays for one of the young people using the service to have a day on the course with me and Gerry (my caddy).  We had a great time with Kathleen; I think the highlight of her day being the obligatory trip out in the car.  Hopefully I didn't scare her too much, she said her brothers were petrol heads too and they'd be very jealous of the drive.  Gerry was great with Kathleen and her friend, they were nearly the same age as his daughter so he's used to dealing with teenage girls; something I've yet to come to terms with!  Gareth from Clic Sargent is a keen golfer and he caddied the final 6 holes, Teresa and Lorraina didn't fancy carrying the bag though as it's so heavy!  I first got involved with the charity last year at Portrush when the Tour auctioned off my caddy position for the Irish Open.  I met a wonderful young man and we had a great day out, unfortunately I learned in February that he'd passed away and it really hits home how short life can be.  I hope Kathleen's treatment goes well and that she can get to University next year.

I'd quite a large crowd with me on Thursday afternoon as I tee-ed off, bigger than I generally play in front of on main Tour.  My long game was poor but I chipped well to get around in 1 under.  It was a decent effort but I felt a bit flat.  I don't know if it was the extra interviews and all the tournament stuff that I had to take part in, or driving the car, but it just took my focus off the golf.  I don't know how Rory and Graeme cope every week; I guess it's something you get used to with practice!

My swing felt much better on Friday morning.  I hit good drives on 10 and 11 but the ball kicked a little left and I ended up in the very wet rough.  I couldn't reach the par 5 and had to chop a rescue out on 11.  The ball ended up in a clump of grass and as I put the club behind it I thought it might have moved a fraction.  I hadn't grounded my club and I thought there might be a penalty so I called the referee.  I couldn't be sure it had moved but I didn't replace it so ended up with a two stroke penalty.  It was my call but I honestly thought it had moved, and as at the US PGA last year I couldn't continue to play if I thought I'd cheated.  That's one of the toughest things about golf; we players generally have to police ourselves.  It means the honest players end up having a rough time of it, whilst some of the others just play on.  The penalty didn't help and I walked off the 18th at +1 having missed a few birdie chances and taking the penalty, the cut was looking in danger!  I went for broke after that and raced a few putts past the hole and missed the return putts too.  My tournament was over!  The rough was thick and the cut hovered about -1.  It was very disappointing and I felt bad for the spectators who'd come out to watch me.  It's never good to struggle, but especially so when you are at home!

There was a young Dutch guy leading the way, he's a potential star for the future and I'm sure we'll see much more of him when he makes it to the main Tour.

Whilst I enjoyed the event and my role as ambassador, it reminded me that I have to work hard on my game over the next while.  I don't want to end up back on Challenge Tour again.  It's tough caddying for yourself each week, having to finish in the top 15 to breakeven.  It's definitely something you can do as a young single man, not when you have responsibilities!

I also spent time in the corporate area speaking with sponsors and thanking them for participating in the event.  It's a huge deal for all the Irish lads trying to make it onto Challenge Tour, by Ireland hosting an event all the Irish lads will get a few starts out on Challenge Tour over the course of the season.  It may help launch one or two careers.

All the players remarked how much they enjoyed the event and how well run it was.  It felt more like a main Tour event, not a Challenge Tour event.  Small Tour events have about 15,000 spectators over the course of the week, Galgorm managed over 20,000.  An awesome achievement.  The grandstanding and tented village were also truly amazing.  A huge thank you must be extended to Chris, Gary, Kirsty, Phil and the entire team at Galgorm!

I'd a couple of days rest to allow me to recover from driving the car and all the attention at Galgorm.  Then I had a 4:30am alarm call.  We were headed to Crans-Montana in Switzerland.  Bev was up at 3:30 to get everything organised and Erin fed.  We had 2 flights and then a 3 hour train ride followed by a half hour car journey.  It really is a long trip but it's one of my favourite events of the year.  We had 5 bags and only 3 made the trip from London to Geneva.  Unfortunately it was the car seat for Erin and the buggy!  Life on Tour is definitely a little more cumbersome with the baby on board, but it's not a bad thing getting to go to work in the Swiss Alps!