The fact is that I have played every links course in Ireland no less than three or four times and the fact that I personally have built three golf courses from scratch, makes me somewhat of a knowledgeable ranker of golf courses. My love for links courses goes back some forty-five years, when I first played the great links courses in Scotland. My favorite course there is Royal Dornoch.
My wife Judy and I, having fallen madly in love with Ireland and their fine links courses, were charmed into buying a house in Ireland on the Sheep’s Head outside of Bantry Bay, in SW Cork. So every summer for the last fourteen years we have been fortunate enough to play the magnificent links courses in Ireland. I love them all of course and there is not a bad one in the lot, but one particular course, with it’s magical past and welcoming Secretary-Manager Noel Cronin, always seems to draw me back. The way I always evaluate a course is to look at all the details. For me it’s the design, playability, setting, and conditioning. It is also a very personal appraisal. It’s what suits my eye and how I play the course. What kind of experience you have from the time you drop off the clubs until you finish and have your pint. Waterville, because of the meticulous oversight by Noel Cronin of this spectacular links course scores five stars in all the categories.
Historically the land dates back to 1700 BC when the Milesians settled here in Kerry. It is a mystical place of remarkable natural beauty. Irish born American John A. Mulcachy, a New Yorker and Winged Foot member took this piece of land on the Ballinskelligs Bay and, with the help of the great architect Eddie Hackett, fulfilled a dream of creating one of the finest tests of golf in the world. The recent changes by Fazio to number 6, 7 and 16 brought it over the top.
Then of course there is Payne Stewart, who was adopted by the Waterville community as one of it’s own. As I have written in past blogs my wife Judy and I just happened to be there on July 12th, 2000 when the club dedicated the statue of Payne created by Jim Connolly, one of Irelands preeminent sculptors. Judy and I weren’t alone; Tiger Woods, Mark O’Meara, Lee Janzen, Stuart Appleby, David Duval, Payne’s wife Tracy, and most of the town of Waterville were also there for the moving dedication. There wasn’t a dry eye among us. It was a testimony as to just how loved Payne was by the community. They still talk about his singing and joking in the pubs. He, as well as O’Meara and Tiger, always made it to Waterville as a stopover before the British Open. There is also a special area in the clubhouse dedicated to Payne.
This year Judy and I were greeted by Jay Connolly, the affable Membership Chairman for Waterville, who splits his time between Waterville and Hobe Sound in Florida. I met Jay a number of years ago while playing golf with my good buddy Win Stevens, now retired VP of Golf Digest and Winged Foot member. Jay had broken his leg but it didn’t stop us from reminiscing with a bunch of pints of Guinness till wee hours in the morning at the Waterville House. Jay and I are a couple of Long Island boys. Jay is from Cedarhurst; Mark O’Meara is also a Cedarhuest native; and I am from West Islip, so we have a lot in common. We are good Catholic educated boys, former alter boys, sportsmen and we have an intense love of golf and Ireland. I love listening to Jay’s stories - he can mesmerize you with stories about Waterville and some of his most humorous stories about life’s experiences.
What it really comes down to, faithful readers, is once again I rank Waterville Number #1 in Ireland. For me it’s the whole package and a “must” on your bucket list. I would also like to encourage anyone looking for a course membership in in Ireland to contact Jay Connolly at email@example.com .
I am including in this blog post a note and pictures that Jay sent me about a visit by the Notre Dame Woman’s Golf Team. Go Irish! Note the picture of the girls by the Payne Stewart statue.
One further note, thanks to the very accommodating P.C., Judy and I did a stay over in Killarney at the McSweeney Arms Hotel where I met and had a chat with Tony McSweeney, the golfing proprietor. This hotel on College Street is the best in Killarney. The Pub is filled with wonderful golf memorabilia and with its wonderful selections of beer and fabulous food is one of the most charming in Ireland. Check it out on www.mcsweeneyarms.ie .
Off on our next golfing adventure on the heavenly links of Ireland.______
From Jay Connolly…
The Notre Dame Women’s Golf Team visited Waterville on Monday, August 11. They were accompanied by their coaches and a group of benefactors. I had the pleasure to welcome them during lunch and spoke of our close ties to Notre Dame.
The late, Mike Wadsworth, Athletic Director of Notre Dame and past Canadian Ambassador to Ireland, was an Honorary Member of Waterville Golf Club. He was a long-time friend of Director Jerry Murray, a Notre Dame alumni. Director Jay Higgins and I attended his daughter’s wedding at the University. The Notre Dame flag that welcomed the Team was given to Waterville by Mike. As they headed out to play, I sensed their enthusiasm knowing that Waterville was also part of the Notre Dame fraternity.
After the round all thought the day was over, but it had just begun. A beautiful rainbow appeared over the Practice Range, pictures were taken with Payne and then the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, walked off 18 after winning the annual Watertown Cup. He immediately engaged with the Notre Dame group on the deck for his own welcome and pictures. Only in Ireland. Only in Waterville!
Waterville House & Golf Links
The Taoiseach is the head of government or prime minister of Ireland. The Taoiseach is appointed by the President upon the nomination of Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas (parliament), and must, in order to remain in office, retain the support of a majority in the Dáil. The current Taoiseach is Enda Kenny, TD, who was appointed on 9 March 2011.
The word means “chief” in the Irish language. The earliest known use of the term is from a 5th- or 6th-century ogham inscription in both the Gaelic and Brittonic languages.