Latest posts by Dermot Davitt (see all)
- Building a showcase for South Africa at Johannesburg Airport - August 18, 2022
- Local flavour, world-class experience – a snapshot of South Africa at Durbanville Hills - August 5, 2022
- Mounting a challenge at Mount Juliet - June 30, 2022
“It’s not how, it’s how many.” With that well-worn golf phrase and a wry smile did Paraguayan pro Fabrizio Zanotti try to temper my disaffection with another ropey golf shot at the Horizon Irish Open Pro Am at Mount Juliet, County Kilkenny on Wednesday.
There I was a guest of Executive Vice Chairman and CEO Colm McLoughlin and the wonderful team at Dubai Duty Free; the company was title sponsor of the Irish Open until last year (and was a key influence in rebuilding the event’s status from 2015 onwards) and is now a partner in the event.
Dubai Duty Free had three teams in the Pro-Am, and I can tell you that to be selected on one of them is our industry’s equivalent of winning the sporting lottery. The chance to play a majestic course, one of the greatest in my home country. Tick. Unparalleled hospitality. Tick. Superb organisation via the DDF team despite some last-minute COVID related interventions. Tick and tick again.
Back to the tenth hole where Fabrizio was attempting to keep me on the straight (no easy task) and narrow (almost impossible given how wide I was hitting some shots, as my ever-honest caddie David Spillane told me).
The aforementioned hoof that Fabrizio concerned himself with came straight off the heel of the club but somehow landed in the general direction of the hole. It followed a succession of loose drives, wayward iron shots and duffed chips – but fortunately I managed a series of solid putts that kept my humour intact, the score moving and, perhaps more importantly, my playing partners (the estimable Arthur Spring and Tom Barry) from pretending they didn’t know me.
Fabrizio, a lovely young man, was charm and calm personified on the back nine. So too was Dane Soren Kjeldsen, the pro who accompanied us on the front nine, generously reading our putts (probably the key reason I holed any) and generally offering patient words of wisdom about how to approach the game to slow-learning amateurs (in my case certainly).
Their contributions give the lie to lazy comments about professional sportspeople being out of touch with the rest of humanity; Soren and Fabrizio (and others we have met at this high-profile event) are generous, giving and unguarded.
And after the mixed performances from me and my amateur colleagues today, well, we did OK. Striding up the 18th, it looked as if we might even be in sight of a prize. For us, the sight of a live scoreboard with our team listed in the top three is both incentive and pressure-inducer.
In the end we missed out on the prizes but what we didn’t miss out on was another day of wonderful memories courtesy of Dubai Duty Free, our time spent between the ropes with some of the world’s great golfers and the certainty that these days out are to be treasured for the rarities they are.
Update: On Thursday 30 June Dubai Duty Free hosted guests at its pavilion in a tremendous location overlooking the ninth and 18th greens. Crowds of 20,000 a day are expected through to Sunday after limited attendance in the past two years. Thousands followed Irish heroes Padraig Harrington, Shane Lowry and Seamus Power on day one.
On the weekend that Ireland face New Zealand in the first of three rugby tests in Auckland (click here for our reader competition in association with Walsh Whiskey), it was perhaps appropriate that a Kiwi, Grant Fox, surged into the lead with a stunning round of 64 shots. Ryan’s father Grant Fox is a famous former New Zealand out-half.
He paid a visit to the Dubai Duty Free lounge later on to talk not just about golf but rugby too. By coincidence, former Irish rugby player Brian Rigney, now well known in travel retail circles for representing Drumshanbo Gunpowder gin, was visiting Dubai Duty Free, and had played against Grant back in the 1990s. At that stage, Ireland had never beaten New Zealand in a rugby international, though we have done so three times since. Roll on Saturday, and perhaps number four…