After much deliberation I have decided to write this story, if it perhaps helps one person avoid this from ever happening to them, then its worth telling.
Royal County Down is ranked #4 in the world for a reason, it is AMAZING,stunning visuals from almost every point on the course. The whole setting is quite spectacular.
I arrived on Sunday, hoping to hit some chips or balls on the range, but everything was closed, so I returned on Monday morning for my 8:30 practice round. A friend of mine and member of the club had arranged an experienced caddie for me, which is very helpful at RCD with the lines off the tee being critical to your success, and with the tricky greens. I spoke with the Caddie Master Barney at about 8:00 am on Monday and to my disappointment he told me I didn’t have a caddie lined up that day. I was a bit unhappy as the first round is the most important day to have a caddie help you with the lines on these many blind tee shots. So I rented a pull cart and headed to the first tee. While on the practice putting green, the caddie master came with a caddie, that had no previous experienced (I don’t think he had ever caddied before), but was a nice lad, and he pulled along the clubs on the pull cart. On Tuesday I was told that the experienced caddie I was expecting was not available and the lad from Monday was my only option. So another nine holes on Tuesday and my game was ready for this thing to start, having been preparing in Ireland since June 21st (two weeks).
Opening round weather on Wednesday was horrific, with wind and driving rain. My tee shot in a driving rain was about 150 yards short of my drive in the practice rounds. After one hole, I was already drenched through all of my rain gear, and four gloves I was trying to keep dry were goners. I made a solid par on the first hole, and on #2 the driver slipped in my hands resulting in a low left liner into the gorse. We found my ball, I chopped it out, hit a wedge onto the green 30 feet away, and then had to wait about 10 minutes while a squeegee team rolled the standing water off the green. I then rolled in my 30 footer for a nice par as the rain continued to pelt down hard on us. The R&A official then informed us that they were going to suspend play (which occurred at about 9:38). We all walked in.
I had my caddie walk with me to my hotel Slieve Donard which is about 100 yards from the first tee. I told him to wait at the clubhouse for information on the delay, and to call me in my room with any news. He of course said ok, and away I went to my room to start drying my clothes, clubs, shoes and anything else that was wet.
At 10:30 I called the front desk and they connected me with RCD and the woman that answered said an announcement would be made in 20 minutes. At 11:00 I called again and the same woman told me the round is delayed 2:30 hours from 12:03 and that I should call back at 2:00. So I waited with no word from anyone. At 12:30 my room phone rang, it was a R&A official telling me that play had resumed at 12:03, and that I was not there, and I was disqualified. I WAS IN TOTAL SHOCK, and was in disbelief that 1. the woman gave me bad information 2. My caddie didn’t come get me or call 3. The R&A knew I was staying at Slieve Donard, and they had my cell number.
But in the end, it was my fault for not actually going over to the club, to make 100% certain that I was getting the right information. I cannot explain the feelings I am going through, now missing a chance to play this great course in perfect conditions. I had put the time into being ready for this event, and competing on this course is something that you can only dream of as a golfer. I played this course in the 1999 Amateur championship, and played it under extreme high wind conditions.
I am now back in Dublin, as I needed to get away from the course and all the people I know asking me what happened. And today I got an email from the R&A asking why I didn’t pay my caddie for the first round…..Oh well I’m keeping my cool, and fortunately I have an event next week when I get back for the NCGA Senior Am championship at Poppy Hills and Spyglass.
More to follow.