Fourteen years ago, right here on the Old Course, I hit the greatest shot of my career — a horrifyingly hung-over lilac long iron that won the Dunhill Cup for Ireland. Now my pal Sam Torrance and his son Daniel were leading the Dunhill Links pro-am, so I was on a mission to get behind the 18th green to surprise them. My first obstacle was a wee Jimmy in a flat hat, who was savagely guarding the media-and-players-only crossing point at the Road Hole.
“Excuse me, sir, I’m David Feherty,” I said. “And I need to get over there to meet my best friend, Sam Torrance. I don’t have a pass, but I captained the Irish team that won here against the English in 1990.”
“Certainly ye did…. F— off!”
So I bought a ticket, ran up through the town and saw them win. Sam had played rubbish, but 15-year-old Daniel won him 50 grand. I gave Sam a slap on the back, which as we say is “only 18 inches from a kick in the hole.”
Then to Ireland we went, the family and I, back to 93 Clifton Rd., Bangor, County Down, and the real reason for the trip — a hug from my mummy, who knows I’m famous. As always, she had a pot of cream of sheepskin soup on the stove. I felt better until I got to Bangor Golf Club, where the members had been charged 20 for the privilege of listening to a speech by the idiot child who, 27 years ago, dropped out of high school and turned pro with a 5 handicap. They’d only just stopped laughing about that, so it wasn’t so hard to get them started again. Due largely to their heroic consumption of Cork Gin, I survived.
The next stop was my old high school, Bangor Grammar, which has a history of academic excellence, and now a tradition of having truants back to speak at Speech Day. I said it was nice that a pupil didn’t actually have to finish in the school to qualify for such an honor — a line that went down better with the boys than with the faculty. I told of how I used to sit in class, listening to the drone of lawn mowers outside, inhaling the smell of grass cuttings and Simon Mercer (who sat in front of me), dreaming of sweet swings with battered old clubs and Titleists with elastic hanging out. I told them I used to go to roll call, then sneak out to the club, where I’d spend all day in the pro shop, working with glue, solvents and naked flame. What an education!
After my speech they gave me a diploma and, more important, a schoolboy’s cap with a gold tassel, which I told them would increase the pleasure of my evening spanking immeasurably — a statement that, strangely enough, the faculty seemed to enjoy more than the boys.
Now the Fehertys set off for Donegal and a few days at the Fort Royal Hotel in Rathmullan, a favorite spot of mine. It rained for three days, prompting the postmaster to say, “It’s keepin’ the dust down nicely.” On my parents’ 50th anniversary (at press time there was no clear leader in their 50-year argument), I loaded mum and dad into a rental rocket along with She Who Must Be Obeyed and Erin the Terrifyingly Beautiful Small Person. My sister Debbie and her long-suffering husband, Ian, piled into another car with Murphy the black lab; Kiva the 125-pound boxer; DJ, a moronic Irish fox terrier; and Bart the cat. To a casual observer, it looked like the pound had just been robbed by two mental patients. On the way, I saw their car swerve violently and later found out it was caused by a surreptitious fart from my sister (since denied), which was hideous enough to make DJ the terrier hurl on her lap, which in turn made Bart the cat crap all over the back seat. When poor Ian rolled down a window, Kiva the heavyweight boxer jumped at the opportunity to either escape or commit suicide. I used to share a room with my sister, and would have done the same.
We sped to Portnablagh, where the surf was pounding over the sea wall. I love that crap and pride myself on being able to read the waves. I trundled the car down the pier so we could feel the power of Poseidon. A swell burst over the concrete and produced a giggle or two, so I let my window down a bit. Four seconds later the alarm was blaring, the doors were locking and unlocking themselves, my mother’s hair was plastered to her skull, and there was a little winkle in my underpants.
All in all, it was a normal outing for the Fehertys, down to the return of two rental cars, which we nicknamed “Shite and Briny.” I’d taken the collision damage waiver on mine, and what with the collision damage being caused by a wave….
They argued, but I didn’t waver.