I’d never been on an organized golf holiday until a few years ago, when I conceived the Cider Cup, contested in England between idiot friends of mine from both sides of the Atlantic. After conception, I ran from responsibility. Mitch, my great pal and ex-agent, took care of the arrangements, from travel to lodging to tee times, and it went smooth as Nantz’s bottom. But for the second go-round, I wanted the boys to see my native Northern Ireland, so heroically I took the organizing upon myself. It was just 20 or so morons drinking and golfing — how hard could it be?
You know those nauseating golf novels in which the mystic game serves as a bilious backdrop for one man’s journey of self-discovery, leading to the hurlingly obvious reaffirmation of that which he already knew to be true? This is the short version. Yes, friends, by taking the reins, I confirmed that the biggest moron I know is still me.
I booked 10 rooms at the five-star Culloden Hotel. No problem there — until a snotty staffer called a few days before the Cup to demand more info, else I’d have to cough up for any no-shows. I was in the market for a little flexibility — six of these pillocks were going to arrive on a Gulfstream G4 whenever they damn well pleased — so after getting the Heisman, I politely lost my reason and told them to insert the rooms where the sun doesn’t shine, which in Ulster gave them plenty of options. I called the friendly Royal Hotel, which is within blundering distance of Fealty’s, the best pub in Bangor, my hometown…. Brilliant!
OK, so the lads weren’t thrilled with the rooms, or that I’d showed up at the wrong airport to fetch them, but never mind the minor details. Golf beckoned, and we tore up a lovely wee course called the Ava at Clandeboye. Then we all got bulletproof at Fealty’s, the lads stumbled back to the Royal and I took a bracing walk home around the seafront to Mom and Dad’s house, pausing to get up off the ground only twice. Things were going swimmingly.
The next morning, I arrived at the hotel with a 24-seat bus and a pickled tongue. Searching for bodies in last night’s wreckage, I came up four short. A broken steam pipe had turned several rooms into a Turkish bath, and the G4 swine had escaped to the Culloden! So, the pleb-filled bus set off to Royal Portrush, but halfway there, the driver, overcome by cigar smoke, Guinness farts and Bushmills belching, took a wrong turn and went to Ballymena. Somehow, this was my fault. Anyway, the G4s took a cab there, no one broke 100 in 50-mph squalls and we fled back to the Royal, where I almost soiled myself when I realized I hadn’t paid the greens fees!
A cell phone and a credit card doused that fire, but my operational hell got even warmer when the G4s were forced to move from the Culloden to the Belfast Hilton and my pal Hollywood Anderson finally arrived, finagling a room at (where else?) the Culloden. Hollywood was wearing a lavender cashmere sweater with matching lavender FootJoys and a positively dangerous pair of slacks that I thought were peppermint but he dubbed “sea foam.” (Sea foam is a brown scum where I come from.) Liberace was hitting the links. But I digress. We played Kirkistown Castle the next day — another 17-vehicle, three-hotels-in-different-towns daytime nightmare. The official tour guide was catching heavy flak. Tomorrow was the final day, at the incomparable Royal County Down, and the nicest name I’d been called all week was “dorkwad.” I beseeched Allah, Jehovah, Buddha and Dr. Phil: Decent weather please, or maybe an invisibility cloak.
The next morning, at the only moment I took my bulging eyeballs off the road, the damn bus took another wrong turn. The drive to RCD is about 45 minutes — we took twice that. But while I was cursing Dr. Phil, it happened: As we rolled into Newcastle, County Down, the sun rent a hole in the clouds over the Mountains of Mourne and spread gold over the purple dome of Slieve Donard and on down the hill through the forest and over the town and slowly began to light up the Irish Sea. Mouths hung open as we trundled into the parking lot. Then the wind died, and the day turned into a fairytale. Suddenly, the tour guide was a hero.
But I am never, ever doing it again.