Being the coach’s son comes with some pretty great benefits, but having the opportunity to travel alongside the team stands above all the others. With it feeling like an eternity until this trip was upon us, my imagination was all over the place trying to imagine what Ireland would be like. From getting to play legendary golf courses to meeting new people all while immersed in a new culture, lets just say that my expectations were completely blown away.
To initiate the week of excitement, we were faced with a long, seemingly endless day of travel. However, the struggle soon subsided once we met up with our bus driver and expert tour guide for the week, Johnny. After learning some introductory information about Ireland and more specifically the area around where we were located, the drowsy morning was changed to a bright day with blue sky. Upon arrival at our first course, Doonbeg, stunning views appeared on all sides making for an incredible first tee shot. Not too long after the round began, it was clear that this course had some surprises that it was hiding. With thick fescue grass lining the rough and slow greens, those who didn’t adapt right away would have found trouble quickly. Along with these challenges, many creative holes made for a rather enjoyable round. A personal experience of sticking it close from forty yards out on the beach ended up being unforgettable. After my round, Johnny informed me that even as impressive as Doonbeg seemed, it would be outdone by the courses that we would play later in the week. Conclusion for the first day came once we arrived at our new home for the week, Killarney Park Hotel.
The second day began with a real standout breakfast. Although it happened at the crack of dawn on a quite rainy morning, the excitement for Waterville was certainly there. After the amazing views of the mountains and the Gap of Dunloe leading out to the course on the tip of the Ring of Kerry, a slight warm up was a predecessor for the first day of gray team versus blue team matchup. Battling through the rain made competition tough but definitely was a taste of true Irish golf. As the links course progressed, the well thought out design became evident. Tricky holes where the green wasn’t in view to steep hills made for some tough shots but they were all key characteristics of this top 100 rated course. Closing in on the end of the round, I was blown away by the views from the last three holes. It seemed as if the entire round had led up to the stretch along the Atlantic coast. After hanging around for food, the sun broke through and waved us off back to Killarney to try out local pub food in town and experience some more of the Irish culture.
Tralee was next on the list. Separate from the preference of each course, the views kept getting better each time. Complimenting the blue skies and golden sunshine that highlighted up the course, everyone was ready to face the challenges offered and experience the legendary links course. As winds whipped, a heated match went down in our group making the whole day special. The second half of our round watched clouds roll in bringing extreme winds and vicious rain. True Irish golf, again. The deteriorating weather certainly dragged my golf game down with it. The skyline was distracting as the snow touched mountains and rolling hills married the sand dunes and vast ocean all around the course. A long ride back home prefaced the interesting night that was ahead. The evening was taken up by many of us stumbling across some live music and then some. All of which unraveled into an interesting evening for sure.
The next was our groups off day. Although the offer of playing Tralee a second time was taken up by some, getting revenge on the course was outweighed by the unknown excursion into the mountains. After being dropped off at a closed cottage with a map of trails on the side of it, 5 of us brave explorers embarked on a journey only described by, “the blind leading the blind.” To begin our “hike” we walked the narrow two lane road that split the Gap of Dunloe. Multiple lakes, sharp cliffs, clouded peaks, and sheep guided us to the Black Valley. From there we continued down into its heart by saving time by cutting through a sheep pasture. Without much surprise, the thrill of adventure overcame us and left us mud covered and wet once we reached the bottom. Hiking down through tiny mountain towns and the barren Killarney National Park made us feel like we were in the Lord of the Rings or something of that nature. Crossing golden meadows and mossy woods lead us to a motorway that seemed at first to our salvation after nearly 10 miles. We were shortly mistaken as our driver Gary informed us that the road was blocked off due to construction. Now we had to walk another 3 to 4 miles, still muddy and still exhausted. Though the beautiful views refused to cease, seeing Gary was the most beautiful moment of that day. Now back in town, we had a good, well deserved meal. Like a walking skeleton, 4 of our 5 made the push out to a whiskey tasting in town after reuniting with the larger group. Seeing 1100 different drinks made some of us feel out of our league. But our willingness to learn was clearly evident!
Supposedly rested and refreshed, we made our way to Dingle. Unknowing of what to expect, the views were unbelievable. For almost the whole ride, mountains resembled the west coast, route 1 to be specific. With no warm up time and a decisive match on our hands, the windy conditions were met with fast greens which led to many great putts. As Skellig Rock looked over us, the place where the island scenes of the last 2 Star Wars were filmed, my father achieved his first hole-in-one. Coincidentally on the same hole that I chipped in for birdie on. Now that drinks were on coach, a great day of golf concluded in the heart of Dingle at a great pub. Celebration was definitely the theme of the night. Stories went around and the congratulations defined a historical day for coach.
Our final day at the Dooks course was not a calm one. Frigid temperatures were complemented by howling winds, requiring multiple club-ups and realignments. Although my own game was spotty to say the least, matches were decided in playoffs and Sean’s 6 under handed it to my dad. As the Blue team came out the gates hot, the week long match went the way of the Gray team. A reception followed up another day of good ole’ links golf. Knowing that this was the last day, the majority headed out after the hotels good food and funny moments. With parents coming out to witness the live music and whatever else went down, many good moments were had. As the night ended, everyone made sure that they left on a high note.
Though the final day of travel was an early one, many were reflecting on how the extraordinary week went. From talking about the great shots you hit to understanding how to fix the bad ones, golfing in Ireland cannot be taken for granted. Even if your golf was on point or if you struggled out on the course, what happened golf wise was only a fraction of what this journey entailed. With large group dinners, long bus rides, and adventure around every corner, it was inevitable that you would become closer with the people around you. But more importantly, it was all done under the influence of a different culture, one that I am sure everyone hopes to embrace again in their lifetimes’.
P.S. Thank God it’s Saturday.
Noah Gyscek -coach’s son
Special thanks to Coach Kelsie and Coach O’Brien for making this trip a success
The Washington and Lee Golf Trip to Ireland – February 2018
Many of us played five courses over six days, but some of us wanted another chance to play Tralee, with its majestic twelfth hole, its amazing views, and its stellar golf. February in Ireland can bring any type of weather, but we had temperatures in the 40’s and 50’s, some great sunshine, and only 30 minutes of rain the entire time we played golf. We were lucky not only on the weather, but in so many other aspects of this well planned and brilliantly executed trip.
Each day every golfer played a match. I was invited to go on the trip as a “former member of the golf team,” and parents of team members were also on the trip. I played on the team forty-seven years ago, and most days on the trip my matches went down to the last hole. Competition was fierce and friendly, just the way it should be. The women’s and men’s golf teams were tested by wind, tall fescue, greens that dropped off sharply on many sides, and pot bunkers that seemed to have magnets in them.
The coach, Pete Gyscek, made his first hole-in-one with a perfectly stuck three iron on number ten at the Dingle Golf Course. On every bus ride to and from a golf course, Johnny Whelan, our bus driver from Kerry Coaches, gave us a history lesson about Ireland. His wonderful lectures covered over 1,000 years of Irish history, from 900 AD to the present. His nickname should be “The Professor.”
Really good golfers aren’t made in a week. Great university golf programs aren’t made in a week. Both take a long time and lot of hard work. But truly great experiences that help students grow and learn important lessons in life and in golf can be made in one week. The 2018 W&L Ireland more than lived up to its promise to be that kind of week. For this “former golf team member,” it was the trip of a lifetime.
Herb Rubenstein, Golf Team Captain ‘74
Golf Team Blog
To say the golfing part of the trip ended with a bang would be an understatement. Today we all traveled to play Dook’s Golf Club, which Johnny the tour guide described as a “hidden gem”. Johnny was right, Dook’s was a fantastic golf course with majestic mountain and ocean views. The wind was the strongest that we had experienced all trip, giving the round a very authentic Irish feel.
With today being the last day, single matches were played to finish out the match up of Team Coach Pete vs Team Coach Kelsie. Team Coach Pete entered the day with a three-point lead. A couple of key matchups today were Dr. Puleo vs. Dr. Harrill and Robert Quinilty vs. Zack Spear (myself). Both matches were intense, hard fought, and came down to the 18th hole. Dr. Puleo drained a putt on the 18th hole to claim the victory for Team Coach Kelsie.
Then, the match between Robert and myself was particularly notable because it was that it was rematch of the battle at Tralee. There, Trey Cathcart and I teamed up to beat Robert and Noah Gyscek. The wager of that match was that the loser had to make a social media post apologizing the other for their trash talk and promoting the other’s dominance. Robert’s social media apology to me was highly acclaimed and a favorite of many. However, today I was less successful. Robert came out of the gate strong, highlighted by draining a 20-footer for birdie on the third hole, putting the pressure on me to make my 10-footer for birdie, which I then missed. Then, Robert dropped the final dagger on the 18th hole when he drained another 20-footer to claim the match. Congrats to Robert, it was a well-played match and he made many clutch shots! The putt on 18 may very well have been the shot of the trip. In the end the Grey team extended their lead to 6 points, claiming the trips’ crown. Congratulations on a great trip to the Grey team!
It’s a shame this trip has come to an end. It has been an amazing trip highlighted by playing some of the world’s best golf course and great luck on the weather. However, most of all I think I can speak for everyone in that the most fun has come in the comradery we have enjoyed with our teammates and our teammates’ parents. As a player, I would like to thank all of the parents, the W&L Athletic Department, and most of all Coach Pete on making this such an incredible trip. I look forward for the next group of players that gets to experience this trip to Ireland!
Wednesday, February 21 marked another edition of the saga that is the W&L Ireland golf trip. A few unidentified members of the team caused us to leave about twenty minutes later than schedule frazzling our stoic tour guide Johnny. This caused us to be late to the golf course which limited our warm-up time. Austin Harrill was quite upset about this. Overall, however, we had a great day of golf. The locals at Dingle Golf Club reminded us about the great weather we were experiencing. Today was certainly no different. The blue skies were not only great for golf, but they also allowed us to take some beautiful pictures of the Irish coastline. We even got to see one of the locations where the most recent Star Wars “The Last Jedi” was filmed.
Dingle Golf Links (Galfchursa Cheann Sibeal) was a gem! Being the most eastern golf course in Europe, it sits on the mouth of Dingle Bay in the Atlantic. The town of Dingle is the only true Gaelic speaking village in Ireland. This is a must visit for any trip to the Emerald Isle. In crisp, sunny weather, the Blue Team closed the scoring gap slightly and now sit 3 points behind the Gray (23-20) heading into tomorrow’s singles matches. One of the highlights of the day was the hole-in-one by Coach Pete on #10. 192 yards with a 3 iron.
After our round, we headed into the town for dinner. We were all surprised when the server at our pub commented on the Irish accent Zack Spear had begun to develop. Nevertheless, everyone enjoyed a great meal at the pub on Coach Pete following his first hole-in-one today and kept tradition by picking up the tab. On the bus, Coaches Pete and Kelsie announced the match-ups for tomorrow’s singles matches. A few highlights include Zack Spear vs Robert Qunility and Herb Rubenstein vs Greg Peete. Hayden Combs is working on creating livescoring through Golfstat for those following at home! The blue team trails by 3 points, but most members aren’t concerned. Andrew Barth notes that the blue team hasn’t read greens well, and will “be reviewing the principles of Aimpoint” tonight at their team meeting. Whether or not Aimpoint works for the blue team tomorrow, the trip has been unbelievable thus far and both teams feel incredibly fortunate to have experienced this trip.
I’ll see you tomorrow. = Feicfidh mé amárach thú
The Blue Team
Greetings from day four of our golf adventure in Ireland!
Everyone had a big day ahead of them: We split into three groups to experience some well-deserved free time. After a night on the town and a delicious breakfast, the first pack headed out early for another round at Tralee Golf Club, a beautiful Arnold Palmer course situated right on the ocean; the second set off to hike eleven miles through the Gap of Dunloe; and the third enjoyed a tour of the incredible landscape and history of Killarny, Co. Kerry.
The hike: As our taxi driver dropped us off for our hike, my dad joked that it would be “the blind leading the blind.” His words turned out to be prophetic. We were left to hike the Gap of Dunloe with a map and little instruction.
This is a picture of our group as we began our adventure. (Left to Right. Luke, Boyd, Noah, Trey)
We hiked on a road towards the Gap of Dunloe. This is a picture of the beginning of our trek.
On the way, we passed a few sheep grazing in the hills. We noticed the colors on their coats. Our bus driver Johnny had pointed them out to us earlier in the week. They are used to help the farmers identify and account for their own sheep.
We continued on, approaching the gap.
After a few picture and water breaks, we reached the halfway point of our ascent.
Eventually we got to the top where we could see well into the valley below.
We ventured on down the mountain, passing a school and a tourist cottage. The cottage was under construction, meaning that we would be unable to partake in one of their famous boat tours. Thus we decided to hike around the lake, eventually running into the Killarney National Park.
As the shadows lengthened, we realized that we needed to get off the trail to get something to eat and relax.
Unfortunately, we ran into problems since our taxi driver was unable to reach us due to construction. Thus, we had to walk an additional couple of miles through the construction to meet up with him.
Finally, we got through the construction. Our taxi driver dropped us at a pub where we were able to refuel.
Overall our hiking experience was incredible. Like Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” We faced some challenges that got the best of us, like the muddy hill we had to walk down.
But we were able to overcome some obstacles as well.
All in all, the hike was incredible!
-Boyd Peete, ‘20
The tour: In the tour led by our fearless driver Johnny, we saw slices of history from the 19th century, the middle ages, and even 600 BC as we drove through farmland, into ancient forests, by mountains, across lakes.
Our first official stop was at the Muckross House, a Victorian mansion set on pristine grounds framed by the mountains. Little rock paths twisted through the flowers and greenery, and huge, gnarled trees (which our own Mary-Frances struggled to climb) spiraled up into the sunny sky.
Next, after passing some deer and Celtic crosses, we arrived at Killarney National Park where we walked to Torc Waterfall and marveled at the weather and the moss-covered trees and stones.
Ross castle was the last of the most notable destinations. Built some time in the 15th century, this stronghold still stands proudly on the edge of Lough Leane, the “lake of knowledge” according to Johnny, and was another great spot for pictures.
Everything here in Ireland seems worthy of admiration, and I’m excited to see what tomorrow has in store as we all head to Dingle! Until next time…
“May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And rains fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.” ~traditional Irish blessing
-Beth Ann Townsend, ‘21