[Dermot 'Divot' and Martin Moodie preparing for Ryder Cup action]
I’ve escaped intact, exhilarated in fact from four days at the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles near Edinburgh, despite being holed up with some of the most dangerous company in travel retail.
Courtesy of Dubai Duty Free Executive Vice Chairman Colm McLoughlin, I and my loyal lieutenant Dermot Davitt (the current holder of the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup) have been attending golf’s most famous and exciting event, meeting a surprising number of travel retail executives on the fairways and in the hospitality areas of the exquisite Gleneagles course in Perthshire.
In golf parlance, I teed off rather poorly when, in my excitement at what lay ahead, I clean forgot to pick up my suitcase from a perfect lie on the carousel at Edinburgh Airport, discovering as the cab pulled into my hotel (the excellent Fraser Suites) that it was an errant drive. Back we went, and back we came. Me cursing like Phil Mickleson at the post-Ryder Cup press conference, my driver a very happy man indeed.
Delighted to have finally reached my hotel, I was a little taken aback to see the room set-up. I was sharing a junior suite with Dermot (who had arrived a day earlier), though only in the knowledge that the original double bed arrangement would be changed to two singles. It had been. Right next to one another.
Strategically moving my suitcase and a large bedside table and lamp between the two beds (I had no barbed wire), I settled in for what would be an eventful few days.
Let me explain the context to the above comments. I am perfectly happy to share a room with Dermot ‘Divot’ who is as straight as a Rory McIlroy drive but we’ve got ‘previous’ you see.
Way back in 2010 we were both stranded in New York for many days after the volcanic eruption of Mount Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland caused global aviation crisis from the resultant ash fall-out.
On that occasion Dermot and I became modern-day reincarnations of Steve Martin and John Candy in the classic 80s film comedy Planes, Trains and Automobiles – in which a businessman (Steve Martin) struggles to travel home across America for Thanksgiving amid a total airline shutdown, with an obnoxious slob of a shower ring salesman (played by the brilliant, sadly departed Candy) his only companion.
[Planes, Trains & Automobiles - the original]
[And now the remake...]
Naturally at the time we argued who should play who, but I won as my three tufts of hair were the same silver as Steve Martin’s and anyway I share his name. Be afraid, very, very afraid next time Dermot tries to sell you a shower ring…
But on that occasion, at least, unlike the original heroes we did not have to share a bed (giving rise to the film’s immortal line, “Pillows? Those aren’t pillows!”). This time was different. Almost.
Needless to say, Colm and Breeda McLoughlin and their brilliant entourage of friends (including ex-Abu Dhabi Duty Free boss Mohamed Mounib and wife Karen and several pals of Colm and Breeda) took great delight in ribbing me about my choice of room partner for one of the great sporting events on the planet. Next time I’ll opt for Europe’s Lee Westwood. He’s bound to snore less and won’t keep me up drinking until post tee-time the next morning.
[Left to right: Karen Mounib, Dermot 'Divot', Mohamed Mounib, Colm McLoughlin, Martin Moodie and Breeda McLoughlin]
But to be (briefly) serious, what an occasion. Put Perthshire (the region surrounding Gleneagles) on your bucket list of places to go before you die. No matter if your game is as bad as mine play this beautiful course. Not “a good walk spoiled” as Mark Twain said of golf but a great walk enhanced by the sheer pleasure of being there.
Make Edinburgh right up there in your top ten cities you simply must visit. It’s both ancient and modern, understated and visually exquisite. It’s a place where you can walk for hours and just soak it in, inhabited by some of the warmest (even in winter time) people on the planet.
[Bunker mentality: Sergio Garcia prepares to get up and down from one of Gleneagles' many sand traps]
And then there was the golf. Crowds 20 deep craning their necks to gain a sight of these modern-day gladiators. The teenage prodigy McIlroy, grown not just to be a man but a sporting god. The American wunderkinds, those two tough as teak Texans Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth. The towering, flowering, never rambling Rose called Justin. The pride of the Welsh valleys called Jamie Donaldson. The unbreakable Northern Irish spirit that was Graeme McDowell. The crazed, self-administering Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) volcanic eruption of a man that was Ian Poulter after holing an impossible and crucial chip. And so many more.
[Martin Moodie points the way towards the golfing god that is Rory McIlroy at the beginning of the final day's singles]
A privilege to witness it. A privilege to be in the company of great people like the McLoughlins, the Mounibs and their wonderful UAE friends. And a privilege to spend quality time with a golfing legend. No not Rory McIlroy. The Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup champion John Candy, I mean Dermot Divot.
[Above and below: Getting up close and personal with the American supporters]
[Within minutes of the result, triumphant European supporters were sporting celebratory t-shirts]