I’ve been poorly again since my return from the Masters, hence the reason for the sister flying solo last week in the blog.  Despite being confined to barracks, however, I’ve been greatly cheered by watching the golf from New Orleans and seeing Rory and Shane come out on top in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, a place that brings back many memories for me.  They had a lot of fun…….as you can see from the photo above which Shane posted on his X/twitter feed.

This was Rory’s first visit to the city known as the Big Easy.  My own debut trip to the state of Louisiana and its famous city took place many moons ago, back in 1977, when I was at uni out in Texas.  A fellow member of the golf team, a Welsh international player, was desperate to visit New Orleans for the Mardi Gras festival, but lack of funds was very much standing in our way.

Not to be deterred, further research revealed that there was a college men’s and women’s rugby sevens tournament on the very same weekend so my pal signed us up for the forthcoming trip – without telling me first.  She presented it as a fait accompli, proudly proclaiming that we would be going on the team bus and staying in the team accommodation for the duration – all at no cost.

The gremlin in this magnificent plan was that we actually had to PLAY rugby before we had a chance to get into the city to enjoy all the sights and sounds.  It seemed a small price to pay and as keen followers of what was then the Five Nations we knew considerably more about the game than the Americans, who were very new to it all.  It could have been disastrous but in fact, it all added up to a memorable few days and an introduction to fabulous Cajun cuisine, which I love to this day.

But back to Rory and Shane who reportedly agreed to play together in this foursomes/fourball tournament at a boozy, celebratory lunch at Rory’s home, post last year’s Ryder Cup victory in Rome.  Shane had teed it up a couple of times before but for Rory this was to be a first in this team format of a competition.  Shane was uncertain as to whether Rory would remember the arrangement but a Christmas text message confirmed the plan.

The two of them have known each other for a good twenty years and for Rory to be able to do something for a first time when in his seventeenth year as a professional was, in his words, “pretty cool”.  Winning in a play-off over Chad Ramey and Martin Trainer was the icing on the cake.

Shane doing the heavy lifting at the point of victory! [Sky Sports TV]

The Irish duo were by far the overwhelming favourites for the title but they were also the out and out favourites with the large galleries that flocked to TPC Louisiana on a daily basis to watch them.  The sponsors, Zurich, must have been delighted and Rory delivered the ultimate golden nugget when, during their winners’ interview he turned to Shane and said, “Well, I think we’d better come back and defend next year.”  What a birthday present for the sponsors, who were celebrating twenty years of hosting the tournament.

New Orleans also has some significance for me in my broadcasting career as it was there that I made my debut commentating in the States.  In those days the Zurich Classic was a normal 72-hole strokeplay  tournament and in May of 2006 it was the first international sporting event to be held in the city after Hurricane Katrina had laid waste to the city and surrounds in September 2005.  I couldn’t believe the devastation and the lack of progress apparent after eight months of a so-called relief operation in the richest country of the world.  One constant, however, has always been the indomitable spirit of the people and their love of their music, food and art.  It’s their culture that gives the place its oh-so-special vibe.

New Orleans certainly took the Irishmen to their hearts and they responded magnificently, carrying on the love into a post-tournament party with the fans.  Rory gave a full-throated rendition of “Don’t Stop Believing” while Shane was happy to cede centre stage to his pal while supping on his beer.  It was reminiscent of Shane’s Open celebrations of 2019 and brought smiles all round – much needed in the world of men’s professional golf.  Things could only be improved if next year Rory could coax a modicum of colour into his pal’s wardrobe.

Shane and Rory conducting the knees-up in Louisiana. [PGATOUR.com]

Twenty years also has some significance for this household as today (Friday 3rd) we celebrate our twentieth anniversary.  We can hardly believe it – blink of an eye and all that.  As we currently still need to whack the heating on of an evening, it’s also hard to believe that we enjoyed drinks out in the garden after the ceremony!  A couple of days away is on the cards and my better half will undoubtedly be very happy to escape the cooking and all the household chores he is currently shouldering.  How right my mother was when, after meeting him, she said, “I think you’ve got a good one there.”

Mums know a thing or too.