Generals MGolf in Ireland: Our golf family!

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Our week long trip to Ireland has ended and it has been a wonderful experience.  As one of the parents who was fortunate enough to make the trip, it was a great opportunity to spend time with not only my son, but with a great bunch of young men.   The kids were polite and articulate and represented Washington & Lee well.   When given an opportunity to play one of the top courses in the world for a second time, the majority of the kids opted instead to do a tour of the Muckross Estate and learn about Irish history.  Many mothers back home would clearly have been proud.   I too was initially impressed with the number who decided to opt for an intellectual endeavor until I realized that the Muckross tour started much later in the morning than when the bus was leaving for the golf course.  This enabled the intellectuals to sleep in after a late night out in Killarney.

The golf was incredible and the courses were challenging.  Fortunately none of the fathers are old enough to shoot their age, but when the wind was blowing 45 miles an hour off the ocean it sometimes felt like we might shoot our weight.  With some of the putts we gave to each other and the generous score keeping, we were all glad the W&L Honor System didn’t apply to us, at least not on the golf course.   There were stretches during the week when all of the parents played well.  One challenge was that there were virtually no electric carts and many of the courses we played had portions of the course that were so steep even the sheep wouldn’t go there.  So not surprisingly the most common words heard on the course from the dads were “hey does anyone have any more Advil” with a close second “did you see where my ball went.”

The parents had a great time and truly appreciate the opportunity to be on the trip.  For this we thank Coach Pete who has done a great job taking the golf program at Washington & Lee to the next level.  After playing with some of the talented freshman, it is clear that the golf team will be much stronger and even more competitive in the years to come.

We were fortunate to have Andy Howell, an alumni and supporter of W&L golf, attend the trip.  He and other alumni were instrumental in making this trip a reality.   I believe alumni like Andy are an inspiration to current team members to stay connected and give back after they graduate.  It was also great to have Professor Shay on the trip who is the academic advisor for the team.  I personally have heard a lot of Professor Shay stories from my son over the last 4 years and it was fun spending time with him and understanding why he is such a respected (and fun) faculty member.   The freshman parents especially enjoyed Professor Shay’s perspective on how to take advantage of the many opportunities that W&L has to offer.

We wish the team the luck of the Irish this upcoming season.

Thanks again Coach Pete and everyone who made this trip a reality.

Dave Sowinski and the Golf Team Dads

General’s MGolf in Ireland: Journey Home

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The “Journey” home…..

For anyone that has been there before, leaving Ireland is surely a transformative moment.  Especially, if you are aware of the concrete jungle that awaits, in either JFK or Newark airports, upon arrival back in the States.  As you come out of the clouds and witness this megatropolis, you realize the “journey” is over!

After arriving in Newark on schedule we prepared for our connection to Richmond.  We boarded a few minutes late due to thunderstorms up and down the east coast, but had no worries we would soon be home.  Big mistake?  We pulled away from the gate and never made it that far.  30 minutes there, then 12th in line to take off we taxied to the runway.  Well, it is not a good sign when the pilot shuts down the engines out on the tarmac!  There we sat through two routes changes and a re-fueling.  Best that I can tell you is that we were able to watch the entire U.S. Olympic Hockey game on our phones!  Then the words, back to the gate and de-plane the aircraft.  UT…OH…  Long story short, we were moved to the 9:15 pm flight thus insuring our travel day would be 24 hours plus.

Newark was packed and flight s were being cancelled everywhere.  We tried renting vehicles but every rental company was sold out.  It was time to witness a “sleepy” golf team endure the moment.  Things got worse!  9:00 pm just as we stood up to board the next flight the words were spoken, “Flight 4759 to Richmond has been cancelled.”  Our fate secured.

Now the fun begins, hundreds, maybe a thousand, stranded customers begin to scramble for the overnight stay.  Luckily, a gate agent must have liked us because she spent the next 1 ½ hours helping us.  Bottom line, we sleep in a Newark hotel and try again tomorrow, only now we head to Dulles.  Can’t get on a flight to Richmond with thirteen passengers, everyone is full.  This is surely a “full” team effort because both Coach O’Brien and Coach Werner had to sleep in a Richmond  hotel prior to traveling to Dulles today to retrieve us.   Go Generals!

If our luck changes tomorrow and we arrive back in Lex Vegas by midafternoon our journey home would total 40 hours from KIllarney to Lexington.  Even though the week spent on the Emerald Isle was spectacular.  We obviously, missed the part about the “Luck of the Irish” and will have to return for another lesson!!

CP, General’s Golf

Generals MGolf in Ireland: Day 6

I woke up this morning to the slightly distressing fact that it was the last day of golf in Ireland, but the even more distressing fact that this would be the last breakfast at the Killarney Park Hotel. The myriad of options was something that I could get used to every day, if any Washington and Lee administrators want to take note. I savored every last bit of my pancakes, smoked salmon, assorted pastries and fruit, and fresh-squeezed orange juice before we headed to the bus for Dooks Golf Links.

After three days of beautiful weather with very little wind or rain and unseasonably warm temperatures, I knew that our good luck wouldn’t last forever. As we stepped up to the putting green, ominous clouds bellowed in the distance and everyone made a mad dash for the rain suits. Instead of rain, though, it was a pelting sleet/hail combination that fell from the sky and stung our faces. But typical of Ireland, the storm was short-lived and the sun came out in a hurry. There were a few more pop-up rain and sleet showers throughout the day, but thankfully they never lasted for more than 10 minutes.

Even though the scorecard read 6700 yards from the tips of Dooks, the ferocious wind still made the course very challenging. Built on a peninsula stretching out into Dingle Bay, we could see the ocean on almost every hole, as well as magnificent snow-capped mountains in the opposite direction. The course had a lot of variety, from the drivable par-4 2nd, to the 470 yard par-4 7th, which thankfully played straight downwind. A brand-new feature of the course was the casual water ponds that had formed during the apparently torrential overnight rain, making the entire course fairly muddy. My singles match for the team competition was hard-fought, though I’ll be leaving Ireland with the sour taste of missing a 3-foot birdie to halve the match. But even though my match didn’t go my way, it was impossible not to enjoy our last day of golf at another beautiful course. Except for the sleet, that is.

The Washington Generals (Green Hat Team) made a desperate move trying to win the competition after trailing all week. There were eleven points on the board today in singles matches.  Green won 7 of the matches but fell short in a loss to the Lee Generals (White Hat Team).  Final score, 16.5 to 14.5.  If you happen to see a white hat bearing a green Trident logo around campus, make sure you congratulate that member of the winning team!

4 o’clock wakeup call tomorrow to begin the journey back home to the States. We are now and forever more supporters of “Erin Go Bragh”!

Cody Solomon, Class of 2017

General’s MGolf in Ireland: Day 5

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Today, we continued our journey across Ireland with a trip northwest of Killarney to the famous Ballybunion Golf Club. We left the hotel at around 8:45 after partaking of the Irish breakfast, one of my personal favorite perks of the vacation. The drive was the longest that we’ve taken so far, but it was well worth it. After arriving at Ballybunion, we all headed immediately to the pro shop to check in and purchase some merchandise. The Ballybunion logo was quite charming (modeled from the ruins of a 13th century building), so we were sure to get a few hats, shirts, headcovers, sweaters, etc. Unfortunately, the club had closed the Old course this winter for some renovations, so we teed off on the Cashen course. The Cashen was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., a designer who lent his architectural skill to such masterpieces as Spyglass Hill, Oakland Hills, Augusta National, and others. Jones used the natural features of the seaside links property to his advantage on the Cashen. The dunes were some of the largest we’ve seen this trip, thus the elevation changes were also very severe. The course itself played short at around 5,600 yards. The first hole was a short par five with bunkers down the left of the landing area and an elevated green. It provided a good opportunity to start the round with a birdie. The second hole was a medium length par four from an elevated tee and was probably one of the more difficult two shot holes on the course. Holes three through six offered an interesting stretch of short par fours and par threes. Three and six were both playing from just over one hundred yards with small greens surrounded by trouble. Four and five were reachable par fours with tiny, highly regarded greens. The short par four seventh offered the first ocean view hole. The eighth and nine were both short, reachable par fives providing great birdie opportunities. The back nine started with a sharp dogleg right par four through the dunes with an elevated green framed by the ocean. The eleventh tee hugged the coast and had a difficult two-tiered green. The twelfth was the second par three in a row (very rare!) and played as the most difficult short hole of the round. Holes thirteen through fifteen were solid par fours playing across the top of the dunes with interesting green complexes.

Unfortunately, the sixteenth was closed due to some winter damage to the course. Last Wednesday, the southwest coast of Ireland was hit with a vicious storm that produced hurricane winds over 120 mph.  The ocean was pushed into the dunes to an elevated sea level of plus 20 feet! It was powerful enough to drop two car sized boulders over a 30 foot high sea wall of dunes and onto the golf course.  It is the same storm that continued across Ireland and ultimately flooded many cities in England. We were fortunate to arrive after the storm and would not have played any golf if it had been the prior week!

The seventeenth and eighteenth were incredible finishing holes providing a difficult finish to a moderately gettable golf course. Overall the course was enjoyable and provided some memorable golf holes, but was not the best of the courses that we’ve played so far on the trip. Most of us would agree that Waterville and Tralee would take the cake as the best courses so far. Luckily, the weather cooperated today and we were able to finish without much rain at all.  After lunch and a few stories at the bar, we left Ballybunion and headed back to Killarney. Before leaving the town of Ballybunion, we drove past the town statue of Bill Clinton located in the round-a-bout.  He is considered an honorary dignitary here due to his work with Senator Mitchell on the peace treaty with N. Ireland and the development of the Irish American Fund.

In a competition update; The Lee Generals won by 2 points again today and now lead the Washington Generals 12.5 to 7.5 going into tomorrow’s final round singles matches at Dook’s Golf Club.

Conley Hurst, Class of 2017

General’s Golf in Ireland: Day 4

Killarney Adventure…

Day four started in a calm relaxed way for some. At an hour unknown, I awoke to enjoy the sweet cool air of Killarney. I have said; the promise of the day leads me to believe I had to wake up at what could only be called Killarney O’clock. We gathered in the lobby and left for the luxurious Muckross estate.

Once there I roamed the grounds with my teammates before entering for a tour of the house. Guided by a lovely old Irish woman, we were given a proper idea of what the world of Irish aristocracy was like during the 18th and 19th century. We began in the main hallway and the elephant in the room was actually a hunting trophy. Mounted on the wall was a pair of antlers of an extinct Irish deer that realistically spanned 5′. We moved on to the bedrooms and other rooms in the house and were able to see some elegant wood carvings.

We then moved on to the queen’s quarters and learned plenty about her trip to the estate. One of the most interesting things we learned was that for her visit, the queen alerted the owners of the estate 6 years in advance. This allowed the people that lived in the house to renovate and redecorate the estate for the queen’s two day trip. One of the renovations included cutting down the forest outside of her room so that she had a view of the lock.

After the tour we returned to the hotel we crossed the street and went to lunch and were able to happily celebrate the confirmation of a young Irish boy named Charlie.

In the end it was a very solid and relaxing day in Ireland!

Weldon Furr, Class of 2017

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Another round of golf….

While the rest of the team went off to tour Killarney, Taylor Stagg, Joey Manzinger and I decided that one round at Tralee was just not enough. Monday’s conditions were absolutely amazing and with similar weather expected on Tuesday, we brought up the idea to Coach Gyscek to go back to Tralee for a second round. That might have been the best decision I have ever made. Johnny picked us up at 8:45 and we made the trek back out to Tralee. When we get there around 10:30, we were surprised to see about two dozen local kids huddled around the putting green. The caddy master, Eugene, explained to us that the kids had the day off, and I couldn’t help but be jealous to the fact that they get to spend it playing one of the most beautiful courses in the world. Because of the increased traffic, we went off the back nine and it turned out to be even prettier than yesterday. With a light breeze and clear blue skies, we set off on the more challenging of the two nines. For the first time in my four rounds, I didn’t need a windbreaker. It may have been the fact that I was climbing sand dune after sand dune looking for my errant drives, but I think it was because it was over 50 out and not a cloud in the sky. Playing a second round made the experience so much more fulfilling, as I was able to get a true feel for the course and actually know where to hit.

Having the opportunity to play a fantastic course such as Tralee once is on every golfer’s bucket list, but getting to play it two rounds in a row is something that I will cherish forever. Sharing this opportunity with two great friends and teammates of mine in Joey and Taylor made the round even more enjoyable and cemented itself as one of the top rounds I will ever play. Each of us managed to shake off a bit more of the winter rust in our games.  As members of the Green Team (Washington Generals) we are ready to get back to the competition against the leading Lee Generals tomorrow at Ballybunnion.

Stu Lotz, Class of 2015

General’s Golf Ireland: Day 3

My morning started off with a delicious breakfast of Irish steak and potatoes. Six sweet rolls, buttered toast and four glasses of orange juice finally satisfied me and I was ready to begin the day. I took a detour to the Killarney Park Hotel sauna with teammate Jake Struebing following breakfast. The heat from the cedar planked walls took me on a spiritual journey — I was ready to take on Tralee. I realized shortly after leaving the sauna that my “spiritual journey” was likely   a lack of blood to the head but nevertheless I was excited to make the trip to the peninsula. Our wonderful driver and Manchester United fan Johnny picked us up promptly at 8:45 and we headed northwest to the coast.

The drive was wonderful and Johnny did his best to inform us about certain houses and history of the area. One of the most interesting bits of information Johnny told us about was the original location of the Tralee golf course. About 30 years ago, the golf course was ten miles inland in the town of Tralee. Nine of the holes were demolished in order to build a new school and other developments so then members decided a new path for the course. Key members knew of a lovely patch of land on a peninsula west of the town and eventually contacted the famous Arnold Palmer to design a course on the site. With Arnold’s incredible eye for design and money from investors, the course was soon completed and it has been history since.

No more than two minutes after arriving, we were greeted by the stern caddy master of Tralee. He informed us that the course was hit hard by the storms in January, including the clubhouse losing shingles off the roof. Additionally, he told us that we would have to hit off small mats instead of the fairways and tee boxes in order to preserve the grass. My fellow trip members and I were not impressed from the start. We weren’t even out of our seats on the bus and were already told that we couldn’t even take divots out of the manicured fairways. Nevertheless, we stepped off the van slightly excited for what awaited us. My group included Conley Hurst, Spencer Payne and fellow green team member(Generals Washington) Mark Sowinski. As we walked to the green on the downhill par-4 first, we all stopped in disbelief. The green on number one was the first time we were able to get a great idea of why Tralee is so famous. We were greeted by one of the most magnificent views I have ever seen. In front of us was a two hundred and seventy degree view of the Atlantic, gorgeous mountains framing the bay and sunlight piercing through the thick clouds. My group collectively took around thirty pictures before we even took the flagstick out and we looked at each other knowing it was going to be a memorable experience.

The front nine went very well for me even though the only fairway I hit was number one. Number two was one of my favorite holes on the course and it could easily give number eight at Pebble Beach a run for its money on splendor alone. Number eight carried the same feeling as two. It was a short, dogleg left par four with cliffs and the bay running directly left of the fairway. A gigantic dune was placed on the right side of the fairway, thus leading me to grip my club a little tighter than normal. I made the turn with a one under 35 and was feeling pretty good about my day…However I did not realize the agony the back nine had in store for me.

I am not going to lie; I cared way more about the views and beauty of the back nine rather than my play. Every single hole on the back nine had one of the most picturesque views I have ever seen and I drained about half of my phone’s battery by taking pictures. My favorite hole on the back nine was number thirteen. Thirteen is a short par 3 with its green framed by gigantic dunes; the shot requires you to carry a deep ravine, approximately a hundred feet deep. I hit a great nine iron that never left the flagstick and then calmly drained the eight-footer for birdie. That was the highlight of my back nine and the rest of the holes left nothing to be desired. My teammate Mark and I did not do a great job at defending our lead over the white team(Lee Generals) we had amassed through the first three quarters of the round and we strolled up the eighteenth all square. I told Mark before I hit my fourth shot that we definitely needed a par to secure a tie and he agreed with a calm smile. Fortunately, I hit my fifty yard pitch shot to three inches and was conceded the par putt by Mr. Hurst. The only hurdle Mark and I had left was Conley’s fifteen footer for birdie, but luckily, for us, the ground’s crew forgot to cut the green and Conley left the birdie putt short.

The course was easily the most impressive and beautiful course I have ever played in my life. I had only played four holes at Tralee and knew Pebble Beach didn’t even come close to matching Tralee’s beauty.  The score after today’s matches is White 8.5 to Green 4.5.  The green team hasn’t played to our full potential and I feel we are really going to make a good comeback later in the week.

However, now all I can think about is the hot tub because my shoulder is sore from pulling the trolley all day. Tomorrow is a cultural experience day and we’ll be taking a day off from golf.

Cheers from Ireland, Patrick Clossin, Captain, Class of 2015

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General’s Golf Ireland: Day 2

Ireland Day 2:

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Ring of Kerry

Mass Hole 12, Quicksand 3, 11th par 5

This morning our destination was Waterville. To get there we had to take the scenic Ring of Kerry Drive. En route to the course, our driver Johnny gave us a lesson on Irish history. As a history major, I enjoyed learning about the history of Ireland as we passed Killarney National Park, the Cathedral in Killarney, and the birthplace of Daniel O’Connell, one of the most consequential figures in Irish history. Daniel O’Connell was the first Catholic in the British parliament and obtained representation in parliament for his Country. Though a pacifist, he was challenged to a duel in which he won, and wore a black glove for the rest of his life out of respect for his opponent. The only Catholic Church in the world named after a person who was not sainted was named after him and was located in his hometown.

Dr. Shay, the golf team advisor, (and my major advisor) is playing with us here in Ireland. We also passed through Killorglin, which was the hometown of Dr. Jeffery Shay’s ancestors. He got a picture with a statue of a King Puck, a goat. Johnny prefers to call him Mr. O’Shea thanks to his Irish roots.

The golf course in the town of Waterville was founded in 1899. It was located at the terminus of the transatlantic cable, which was the first link between Europe and North America.  Many in Waterville worked for the company that operated the cable, and it actually ended on what is today the 18th Green.

Having the opportunity to play a course considered among the top 100 in the world was fantastic. The course fits beautifully among the sand dunes located on the bay. The weather was not as spectacular as the course. As we played, the weather steadily deteriorated. While it was relatively warm, the mist changed to rain (mixed with sleet at times) and the winds picked up. Fortunately, we were prepared for the elements with rain suits, which kept (me at least) nice and dry. We definitely had fun and enjoyed it, though at times the sting of the rain was less than pleasant.

There were notable features on several holes. Just off the fairway was a tidal estuary that had quick sand, so trying to collect an errant shot could be dangerous. Behind the 8th green there were palm trees, owing to the Gulf Stream which keeps the temperatures in County Kerry fairly temperate year round.  The 11th hole is considered among one of the top 500 holes in the world, as it weaves between dunes. The 12th hole is named the Mass Hole. The green was originally located at the bottom of a valley, but locals protested the greens placement. The secluded valley was where the local Catholics held mass when it was illegal to practice Catholicism in Ireland. The green has since been moved out of the valley up to the top of an adjacent hill. With the fierce winds today, it was hard to make it all the way to that hill! On the 17th tee, you can see the entire course and surrounding area. By the time my foursome reached that hole, the rain was blowing sideways, but the view was truly tremendous. The 18th hole was quite a treat to play. Along the Atlantic Ocean, the waves were crashing on the adjacent beach, and the wind was blowing across the fairway. It was a true test of our golfing ability.

Our match results are in. The Lee Generals lead the Washington Generals by 3 ½ to 2 ½. Tomorrow, we will continue our match at Tralee Golf Club, also in County Kerry.

Mark Sowinski, Captain, Class of 2014

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