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Emptying out the notebook

Tom Watson
Getty Images

Emptying out the notebook from a 10-day excursion to Europe, including stops in Northern Ireland and England for the Open Championship.

- Playing golf in Ireland always makes me feel better about the state of our game. The junior programs are rich, as are the women’s leagues. On a day at Royal Belfast, one 11-year-old boy had played 36 holes by 1 p.m. His goal was 72 holes. That’s his goal every day, five days a week during the summer. His doctor father drops him off at 7 a.m., picks him up at 7 p.m.

- The juniors at Royal County Down were well behaved too. They’re each put through a summer program where they learn etiquette, learn the game and learn to have fun. If they pass the program, they’re allowed junior membership.

- Royal Portrush absolutely is good enough to hold an Open Championship. The elephant in the room is the “troubles” that continue in Northern Ireland. Until they get them under control the Open will not go there.

- The people in Northern Ireland are genuine and we never met a stranger. They seem to love everyone else, just not always each other. Sad.

- Royal Portrush is now in my top-three courses in Europe, joining Waterville in Ireland and Royal Dornoch in Scotland.

- Visiting Holywood Golf Club was a great experience and really puts into perspective how big of a deal Rory McIlroy’s U.S. Open victory was.

- I like the Open better when it’s in Scotland. Like the food better in England.

- Favorite English sayings were: spot of bother, wobbly bits and wee. If your ball is in rough and difficult to advance you’re in a “spot of bother.” Ian Poulter was asked after a second-round 78 to explain his “wobbly bits.” And “wee” is used often, mostly when talking about the “wee lad” or the “wee roundabout.”

- Speaking of roundabouts, I still love them. They’re tricky at first but much more efficient than stoplights. They make traffic flow better. Think left, look right is the best tip for an American entering a roundabout.

- Things the English do better than Americans: before a stoplight turns green it turns yellow, a warning of sorts to get ready to step on it; security measures are much more efficient in the airport, including the bin system.

- Picked Darren Clarke to win the Open Championship in our fantasy golf game. Didn’t have nerve enough to bet him at Ladbrokes in Sandwich though. Feel a lot better than a colleague that bet Clarke would lead the first round, which was the only round he didn’t lead.

- Mark Calcavecchia was the last person I saw before entering Ladbrokes. I resisted the urge to fall for the “omen bet.” You know, the one where you feel compelled to bet for the last player you see? He did play well in the first round though.

- Didn’t like hearing McIlroy complain about the weather after the final round of the Open. Dude, there’s weather here every year. And you grew up in Northern Ireland where the weather isn’t great. Now that you’ve won your major championship please don’t turn into Sergio Garcia.

- Tom Watson practically forced me to have a man crush on him.

- Royal St. George’s didn’t exactly receive love early in the week, the weather was terrible during the week, but by the end of the week, it delivered in a big way.

- Gained 6 pounds while overseas. I consider it a victory. Could’ve been worse.

- Can’t wait till next year.