Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF
Copyright © Kevin Markham. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
|Tim Lang (Markham)|
I asked him how far he was hitting the ball.
“Into this wind, about 270,” he replied.
I pointed to a distant spot and took a photograph as he bombed it to the exact point I had shown him.
It’s not something you expect from a one-legged man who had his back broken in four places. But that is the determination and inspiring story of a group of 11 wounded US servicemen and women, who found themselves enjoying some of Ireland’s finest hospitality in October.
It started out as a simple public relations campaign to the United States of America for a new luxury golf travel company, but it snowballed into what might well be one of the biggest golfing publicity coups that Ireland has ever seen.
Linton Walsh, CEO of Golf Digest Irish Tours, was visiting the US to promote the company. By the time he’d finished, 11 seriously injured US servicemen and women, along with family members, were on their way to Ireland to play some of the island’s best golf courses.
Some 40 Irish travel organisations ensured that flights, accommodations, green fees, balls, clubs, clothing and a whole lot more, were complementary for everyone. On offer was some remarkable Irish hospitality, not to mention October weather that saw golf played in almost constant sunshine. Add in 10 top courses, including Royal County Down, Old Head of Kinsale, Ballybunion, Tralee, Waterville and The European, and it doesn’t get much better than that.
Golf odyssey aside, there was a deeper purpose behind the trip: one that is both inspiring and heart-warming. The objective was to give these servicemen and women, and their families, two weeks away from the stress of their daily lives.
“I realised that a golf trip to some of the greatest, most spectacular courses in the world would not only showcase Ireland and its warm and welcoming people, but would also highlight the game of golf as totally inclusive, regardless of age, ability, or disability,” said Walsh.
TO BE CONTINUED.
Kevin Markham is the author of Hooked: An Amateur’s Guide to the Golf Courses of Ireland and writes about Irish golf courses at his blog.