Making connections is one of the great things about playing any game and golf is no exception, it’s a joy; but if you’re travelling, there’s nothing more stressful.  Miss a connection and you’re in real trouble, liable to find yourself in a spot marked not by an X but chosen in desperation as a result of recourse to plan Z.

A good friend is a great fan of having a plan, be it A, B, C or if needs be Z.  Last Monday, after much debate and consultation, I set off from Dornoch with only one plan and if the bus to Inverness didn’t run more or less up to time, my travel itinerary was scuppered.  Mo and Brian walked with me to the bus stop in the Cathedral Square and we were all a bit alarmed when we saw how tatty and aged the bus timetable looked.  After all, looking online, as one is required to do these days, the departure time varied depending on which website you were consulting and a chart that had seen better days didn’t inspire confidence.

Fortunately the bus arrived early enough for some of the passengers to get off and have a quick ciggie before re-boarding.  One regular who’d done just that went a bit ballistic when she found a young man who’d got on at Dornoch sitting in her seat, unaware that it had already been bagged.  “I”m no’ sittin’ doon the back,” she complained, loudly, then stomped off to the loo, leaving her pal to apologise for the outburst.  The young man moved and we all settled down to a quiet, uneventful journey that was well up to time.

Waiting for the bus in Inverness, a Highland tourist hub. Why would a busy bus station not have a roof? Or a bit of organisation?

The 1020 coach from Inverness to Glasgow was a bit late leaving because the loading of luggage verged on the chaotic and a guy who’d been playing in a competition at Royal Dornoch the day before was particularly anxious that his clubs should be treated with care.  Eventually everything was safely loaded and we set off on a lovely tour that took in Aviemore, Pitlochry and Perth.

At this point I have to confess that I was heading for Glasgow Airport, having realised that an eight-and-a-half hour train journey from Inverness to Stranraer, then ferry from Cairnryan to Larne (or is it Belfast now?) was not the most sensible travel option.  I gave up on my notion of avoiding flying and booked myself on an easyJet flight to Belfast International.  Even that was not without its alarms when easyJet’s own website claimed that they didn’t fly that route….

Turns out they did.

Welcome to Aldergrove airport – oops, showing my age, it’s now Belfast International. There are people who won’t eat any other crisps and have their supplies shipped over to the UK.

All this toing and froing, up and down and roundabouting was with one end in mind:  to play in the Therese O’Reilly Fourball Trophy at Grange in Dublin on Thursday (yesterday).  Therese, universally known as Tiny, died, far too young, in 2008.  She was, as they say in Ireland, a gas character, a joy to be with, impossible to ignore or forget, so no matter the weather or the state of our golf, her friends and family love to get together to remember her.  Thanks very much to Jen, one of Tiny’s daughters, a whiz with social media, for the picture of the trophy.

Sheena, president of Grange and one of  Tiny’s best pals with Des O’Reilly, Therese’s husband and  Jen, who set up the picture to look more professional than my usual efforts…

I caught my old sparring partner Lilian Starrett, an Ireland international and captain in her day, in a weak moment and she agreed to play with me.  By the time she collected me from the airport on Monday evening, she was panicking about the state of her game.  I needed a pair of golf shoes, so the next day we took a trip to Cairndhu, her home club, where there were no shoes for me but a quick lesson for Lil from pro Wayne Telford. She explained the problem and he sorted it in no time.

Cairndhu, high on its hill above Ballygally, is not for the faint-hearted but the views are worth the climbs.

 

Nothing an expert eye and a brief explanation couldn’t fix.

 

Et voilà: a sweet striker still is our Lil. Many thanks to Wayne for his time and expertise.

No, my partner and I did not win the trophy, though we hit some good shots in pretty difficult, blustery, damp conditions and managed a few pars between us.  I came in early, then left most of the scoring on the back nine to Lil – the travelling had taken its toll I think!!  We had a brilliant day nonetheless and thanks to everybody at Grange for making us all so welcome.

Summer golf in Ireland is much the same as in Scotland: unpredictable but liable to be wet. Lil, Midge (aka the incomparable Mary Gorry) and Mairead dressed to impress the rain gods…

We’ll be back next year.

Finally, just to confirm that Lilian and I are navigators of the old school with no clue how to work the sat nav and a bit giddy when it comes to googling.  We still managed to get to Dublin with barely a hitch.  We did it the old-fashioned way, with our directions scrawled on a bit of scrap paper.

Pushing the envelope?  At journey’s end….