Wednesday morning found us waking up in Northern Ireland for the first time on our trip. We were greeted outside the hotel at 8:00AM by Paul Doherty of Bogside History Tours. From our location just inside the Derry City Walls, Paul began our personalized tour of Derry. We learned the history of Derry as a walled city dating back to the 1600s and walked on top of the wall. We then proceeded to the Bogside area of Derry, the location of the infamous Bloody Sunday on January 30, 1972.
Paul has specific ties to that event as his father, Patrick Doherty, was one of the 13 killed on that day. Paul admitted that other tours in the area take a milder, more politically-correct approach to their tours, but he and his family feel strongly that their perspective be told directly. Our tour with Paul ended at the Museum of Free Derry. On display was the belt of Paul's father, which had a notch from the bullet that ultimately killed him.
After the tour we made a quick stop at the Bishop's Gate Hotel to pick up our golf gear, then got on the road for the 40 minute drive to play Castlerock Golf Club’s recently renovated Mussenden Links Course.
Castlerock Golf Club - founded in 1901 - was actually one of the newest courses we played. Castlerock recently completed a six hole (mostly greens) renovation and it was evident that these new holes were an improvement to the course. Early on about 80% of the work was done by outside contractors, but as the project came to completion more of the work fell to the existing staff of nine.
The weather at Castlerock was great, except for a few light sprinkles. Course Manager Charlie Edgar visited with us out on the course. Matt Crowther's caddy had left all of his cold weather and rain gear back at the clubhouse, so Matt loaned him his TurfNet vest for the three or four holes when the weather was less than perfect.
After golf and a quick round of drinks in the club bar, we were back on the bus to Derry and rejoined those who had opted to spend the day relaxing, shopping, or touring there.
Our dinner was sponsored by John Brauer and IVI Sandtrapper and started with drinks at the historic River Inn - the oldest pub in Derry, established in 1684.
The traditional Irish band Connla was a last minute addition to the TurfNet trip this year as they had arranged a short tour of Northern Ireland when their original plans to play farther afield fell through. They had just returned from a 12 week tour of the US. Lead singer Ciara McGafferty greeted the group and said “It’s funny – we can’t wait to get back to America and youse can’t wait to come to Ireland!”
The group of five entertained us as we sat down for dinner, took a short break while we completed our main course, and finished off the evening with some rousing tunes, including performing Eric Clapton's Layla as an encore.
Two members of the band live in the Bogside neighborhood and were literally a five-minute walk from the venue. After signing a few CDs and chatting with our group, Connla headed home and we headed back to the hotel to rest up for our departure the next morning and our participation in the 10th TurfNet Emerald Challenge/Jim Byrne Cup at Ballyliffin.