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Quality time with friends and family

We hadn't been home to Northern Ireland since March, apart from the Irish Open which doesn't really count as it was a work week.  I was really looking forward to getting home to see friends and family.  Trying to keep up with everyone can be difficult when you travel so much.  The travel also means you don't get to drive your car much.  A road trip was a great way to see everyone and to get some time in the car!


We stopped in Southport for a putting lesson and to catch up with Karen, my sister in law, it helped to break up the journey.  We'd a four hour drive up to Cairnryan on Tuesday afternoon and were home in Belfast by dinner time.


Bev had a busy week arranged for me, no lazing around eating too much this week.  First stop was my old Primary School - Strandtown on Wednesday morning.  I was to talk to the Primary 7 class.  There are about 250 kids in the year so it was a little daunting.  We arrived at the school and the kids were already sat in the Assembly Hall.  Thankfully one of the teachers had agreed to do a question and answer session so I hadn't had to prepare a speech.  I tried to answer everything truthfully and to encourage the kids to study and work hard.  Education is really important and it's probably something I didn't truly appreciate at the time.  I had a few pictures taken with some of the pupils, signed a few bits and pieces for them and even gave a free lesson to one of the teachers, hopefully his game will improve as a result but I'm not known for my expert advice!


Dad and I played Shandon Park in the afternoon.  His game is still in great shape even though he's now in his 70s and he's beaten his age twice recently.  I like to show him what Jamie and I have been working on.   Even though I don't really take much advice from him anymore it's still nice to show what you're working on.  A few of the P7 boys from Strandtown arrived for the Junior Coaching as we were finishing.  Peter Morgan is a great young coach now working at Shandon with a huge number of the kids.  He was an assistant at Bangor Golf Club with Michael Bannon (Rory's coach) and he really loves the game, he even sent me some analysed swings the last time I was home.  The kids all seem to enjoy their sessions and at 10 or 11 that's as important as being really good.


I was back up to Shandon on Thursday with Karl Morris to work on my pre shot routine.  Karl has worked with a lot of the Tour Pros in the past including Darren Clarke and Louis Oosthuizen.  I've been working with him for about 18 months now and wanted a session before the Dunhill defence.  This was the only day in a few months when we were both free so Karl flew in from Manchester for the day.  We spent the day working on me getting a clearer picture of the shot in my head.  It's something I tend to rush during competitive rounds and it affects the shot produced massively.
After I dropped Karl to the Airport it was time to head to the Odyssey to catch the Belfast Giant's Ice Hockey game.  I really enjoy watching the local teams play especially the Ice Hockey and the Rugby, unfortunately I won't get to Ravenhill this trip as the boys were due to be in Italy.
I headed up the coast on Friday for the start of some rest and relaxation.  I headed to the new Giants Causeway Visitor centre.  I'm a member of the National Trust and was interested to see the new building.  Bev and the other Tour Players wives had visited before it opened in July but I'd missed out and I was keen to have a look - I really liked it and enjoyed reading all the new displays on the way down to the stones.  It's a walk I always try and do when I come home. 


Saturday was a serious boy's day out with lots of golf at Castlerock Golf Club.  The weather was good and I really enjoyed seeing everyone at the club.  Unfortunately I didn't play great but Johnny Todd and I won the money from long term friends Ryan McGuigan (Danny Willet's caddy) and Ronan Higgins.  I'm a little mean and don't tend to give the boys any more shots than their handicaps.  It was off to the winebar to debrief and catch up with a few of the other lads who hadn't made it to the course. 


I spent Sunday afternoon with my brother and sister in law at Bushfoot Golf Club, trying to give a little advice and improve their games a little.  I hadn't been to Bushfoot in about 20 years and I was really impressed by the lay out it's a very picturesque little course.  I think I'll be back when I'm home again as its son convenient to the house in Portballantrae.


Thankfully I also got to watch the golf from America whilst we were home; I think Rory should have won.  They reset the points just before this last event of the Fedex cup playoffs and so his 2 previous wins didn't count as much, which seems a little unfair.  I was impressed by Luke Donald and Justin Roses' performances; hopefully it bodes well for the Ryder Cup next week.  Brandt Snedeker won $11.4 million by taking the title, $10m for the bonus of the Fedex Cup and $1.4m for Sunday's event.  The top end of Pro Golf is crazy cash!


I'm really looking forward to this week; the Ryder Cup is going to be good.  I've a boys day arranged for Friday - golf with Matt Zions and Andrew Snoddy then a BBQ, a few beers and the Ryder Cup, Montgomerie told me it could be rowdy, let's hope it's fair!


It was also good to see Alan Dunbar and Johnny Caldwell make it through first stage of Q school.  It's a really tough challenge to make it the whole way through and I wish the boys the best of luck at second stage.