Friday and Saturday included a few more leisure/tourist activities (primarily for David Escobedo's benefit as he must return to Arizona immediately following the tournament) so when Sunday morning arrived we knew it was game time.
David's first Guinness on Friday had to be memorialized for posterity's sake!
Saturday night we stayed in the border town of Dundalk in County Louth. TurfNet members will remember Dundalk from our 2015 Members Trip to Ireland. Dundalk is about an hour north of Dublin which positioned us well for the trip into Portstewart in Northern Ireland.
Dana Chase flew overnight Saturday from Hartford on Aer Lingus and arrived at 5AM. After a short bus ride to catch up to us in Dundalk, the three of us were on our way.
Our fourth team member, Marty Richardson, was catching a lift from another volunteer, Mike Brennan from Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links -- a venue familiar to TurfNet members who have been on our recent Ireland trips.
The drive into Northern Ireland is a breeze and you hardly know you're in a different country except for the change from kilometers to miles. That's in stark contrast to the hard border that existed for many years.
We made very good time, which allowed for a quick stop at Giant's Causeway, a World Heritage site and one of the most popular attractions in the area. Giant's Causeway is made up of over 40,000 interlocking hexagonal basalt columns which resulted from an ancient volcanic eruption -- or were stacked there by a mythical giant named Finn McCool -- depending on which story one believes. The rocks are unlike anything you'd find in North America.
We made a stop at Giant's Causeway on the road to Portstewart.
Giant's Causeway in Co.Antrim.
David Escobedo, Dana Chase and me at Giant's Causeway.
Once back in the car it was a short twenty minute ride to the Portstewart Golf Club clubhouse for our introductory dinner ('lunch' back in the States) at 2 PM. This was our first chance to meet up with Bernard Findlay, his in house crew of twenty, plus the other volunteers from around the world.
Course Manager Bernard Findlay and Deputy Course Manager Brian McConway
The dinner and service were excellent and we can see how much the members at Portstewart must enjoy the club. Each person introduced themselves and I made a short explanation of our blog and our activities in the area. Many attendees said they would send a link to the blog to their family and staff back home.
We were presented with a thorough guide to maintenance at the tournament and were shown to our respective rental homes for the week.
Later that afternoon we returned to the course, received our uniforms and went out to learn our way around The Strand Course. The course is in outstanding shape and our role this week is to keep it that way.
Dana Chase meets Head Mechanic Derek Morris (center) and Assistant Kieran McConnell (left) night.
David Escobedo learning the preferred technique for raking bunkers at Portstewart.
I join Davids bunker crew for this stunning photo of the Strand Course.
At about 9 PM we returned home for the night, baked a few frozen pizzas, and turned in while anticipating our 4:15 arrival at the course.
-- Jon Kiger