A Tip of the "Cider Cup"

I haven't ventured outside of the good old U.S. of A. for a while now, so like many of you dear readers, I'm a little unfamiliar with some of the new faces on the European Tour. In fact, if Henrik Stenson bit me on the ankle I wouldn't know for whom I should be limping.

So, in the name of research into drinks with one ice cube, and despite the threat of mad cows with hooves in their mouths, I have decided to mount an expedition to Ireland and England during the week before and the week of the Ryder Cup.

I am brushing up my native accent in a vain attempt to talk the way I did before I became a Texan while headed for the great used-to-be-known. As any great explorer will tell you, the keys to a successful expedition are preparation and personnel, so I am plotting everything in advance and assembling a posse of highly trained hangers-on.

I'm coming home on a boys' trip, and, as usual, I'm taking my wife for protection. But this time I'm also bringing a bunch of idiot Americans with me! People at home will be so impressed, I'm telling you.

It seems that everybody has his own Ryder Cup-style tournament these days. It's the golfing equivalent of a tailgate party, but I'm determined to make this one unlike any other. Like Hatfield versus McCoy, it's bound to end in tears, so this year I thought I'd simulate the disaster with a few of my own family and friends the week before the real Cup.

Normally, I try to get back to Ireland at least once a year to visit the old kinfolk, but a splinter group of these idiots have discovered where I live, and recently they've been camping out in front of my Sub-Zero on an all-too-regular basis. That sort of takes away my main reason for going home, because when I do, there's usually a bunch of them waiting for me there, as well.

Not that I want to give the impression there is anything wrong with my relatives. No, no, absolutely not. It's just that they all appear to be insane, that's all. In fact, I feel that there is considerable evidence to suggest that I may be from an entirely different species, or planet, or something. Before you go assuming I am the black sheep of the family and therefore hold some kind of grudge against the rest of them, consider this: I have a second cousin who actually is a black sheep. His name is Digby, and he's already seeing someone.

Every team needs a doctor, so I am taking my brain surgeon, Dr. Mark Cwikla, who is a two-handicap and is capable of drinking like a halibut when pressed. Then, of course, we have to think about transport, so I'm bringing along Bobby Rodriguez, a.k.a., "B-Rod," who runs the Porsche Store in Dallas. As far as I am concerned, everybody should have a tame Porsche dealer as a designated driver.

Bobby is very sober and very, very fast, which may be useful around The Belfry, as the roads will no doubt be infested with police who have a tendency to drive very badly indeed.

Mike Abbott, the director of golf at the Vaqueros Club just outside Dallas, is being commissioned as American team captain for no other reason than the fact that he is fatter than me and he is American. Bruce Turbow is a friend of mine who now lives in Austin and is coming along because he is a rich idiot who appears to do absolutely nothing but smile. I want to know how he does it.

On the other side of the ditch, there will be a welcoming committee for me and my merry band of Yanks. Howard Baws, who has been previously reported in these pages as the owner of the most photogenic genitals in the history of golf, and a man who hits his wedge 200 yards (and every other club progressively shorter), will be present, but probably not correct.

Chris Mitchell, the man who had the great misfortune to look after my business affairs for 14 years, will be there, along with Ian Carlin, who is my brother-in-law and a recovering alcoholic, largely because he is married to my sister. Finally, my father, a man who has absolutely no intention of recovering from anything, is coming along to act as team philosopher. In fact, most people, after coming into contact with my father, have to recover from him. He will be the captain of the European "Cider Cup" team.

I'm calling it the Cider Cup, after the very strong alcoholic apple drink from the West country of England, where the event will be played. Every pub has it's own version of it called "scrumpy," which is also a pretty good way to describe how most people feel after a couple of pints. It's like apple-flavored lighter fluid.

The venue for this historic hysteria will be the Trevose Golf Club down in the county of Cornwall, where the members are among the most hospitable in the world. Also, most of them have a screw loose somewhere, which makes them the ideal hosts for an event such as this, in which the only rules will be: "Smoke yer own, find yer own, and keep up."

I am the one and only referee, and I will be doubling as the scrumpy cart girl. (Don't worry, by the time they've played nine I will be the most attractive thing they ever laid eyes upon.) The referee's decision will be final, and arguing, although not mandatory, will certainly be encouraged.

There are only two four-balls involved, which makes the Cider Cup the perfect size for dinner. A table should never have more than an eight-idiot-to-one-referee ratio.

Also, the event will be 36 holes in one day -- foursomes in the morning, a four- hour lunch, and an afternoon four-ball that in all likelihood will end up being nine holes, punctuated by some tremendous burping.

After the fracas at Brookline, the European Cider Cup team has a lot to prove. The American side is not a particularly strong one, but it has one thing going for it, which, on this side of the Atlantic at least, is always perceived to be an advantage: It's American.

There will be few similarities to the real Cup, I fear. For a start, there will be only a very small jeering crowd at the Cider Cup, and absolutely no official functions, so that the players can concentrate fully.

Also, on the first tee, to decide who plays together, all the players on both sides will throw their balls in the air at the same time. (This is something they should consider for the real event. I can see Lord Derby now, staring down his nose and saying, "All right, chaps, who owns the Flying Lady?")

The Cider Cup will be what the Ryder Cup was always meant to be: A bunch of people brought together by a pastime, divided by a contest, and ultimately united again by simply having taken part in a celebration of the last pure sport on earth.

The Ryder Cup is natural selection (plus two picks) in action, all for bragging rights and to hell with money. Underneath the hospitality of the hosts, and the gratitude of the guests, there will burn a fierce desire to win, just for the opportunity of being able to brag in fun, and to heighten the anticipation for the next meeting in two years' time.

If it weren't for the rhetoric on television and herds of sheep-like writers stampeding back and forth between the camps and bleating their he said-she said stories, the way the players really feel would shine through.

Having said that, I don't care if you've never heard of half the European side, we're still going to destroy the vile capitalist pigs of the evil American Golfing Empire. I was on the 1991 team at Kiawah, pal, and no one had heard of me, either.

Of course, we lost. But that's a minor detail. This time you're all doomed.

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