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Rathmore Club and the US Open Trophy

22 August, 2010

Rathmore Club and the US Open Trophy

Jim McCann holds Graeme McDowell’s US Open Trophy at Portrush

22nd August 2010

It was to be a weekend away to Portrush with a difference for me – one that was meant to involve absolutely no golf! What was meant to be a quiet couple of days away with my wife visiting friends at one of the most sacred shrines of Irish links golf turned out to be an excursion with a difference.

We arrived late on the Friday night, having flown from Glasgow to Belfast in the early evening, and were tucked up in our hotel soon after midnight. A mid morning walk for me next morning with my friend Sam and his dog along the dunes that front the golden sands of the East Strand – whilst our wives indulged in a little shoe shopping down the town – had ME pointing out various holes of note on the Dunluce and the Valley courses to local resident Sam (a confirmed non-golfer who has lived for nearly thirty years in Portrush).

After around an hour of walking along the sand hills, looking down at the golfers on the links below, it was time to head back to the safe haven of the harbour bar for the first Guinness of the day – well, it was just about noon by that time! Sam had a couple of mates in town, one from Canada and one from Malta and his wife Carol had her friend over from north Wales for a wee get together so we all joined up for a very pleasant lunch. My Strabane mate Kevin and his wife joined us after eating so we embarked on a very pleasant afternoon/evening/night time session and the pub was heaving with a mix of spectators and participants in a big pipe band contest that was taking place in the town.

Morning after the night before at the breakfast table, Syd the hotel owner asks, all matter of fact, if I’ve been along to Rathmore Golf Club to see Graeme McDowell’s US Open Trophy on display – I had thought he’d be a member of Royal Portrush, actually. “No? Well I’ll just give Freddie a call at the club and make sure it’s there before you go round then.” So at 10.30am we bowl into the car park of the homely wee Rathmore club that sits on the very edge of the Royal Portrush property. It’s where the locals socialize before and after playing their golf on the much under estimated Valley course while the tourists take up the tee times on the big Dunluce layout next door.

And there, strung up above the front door of the unassuming little clubhouse, was a big banner from a few weeks before still welcoming their local hero Graeme McDowell home: “A Giant on the Causeway, now a Master of the World.”

As soon as we walked in the front door, there’s the trophy cabinet right in front of us in the lobby with a few recent McDowell mementoes on the main shelf; a replica of the Ryder Cup on one side, a copy of the Loch Lomond Scottish Open trophy on the other and in between, a great big gap where the US Open trophy should be – some mistake surely! I’d spied a trio of officials sitting in the lounge round the corner as I entered and on inquiring as to the whereabouts of the cup, was told it was kept in the safe overnight for security reasons. Panic over, they’d get it out for its daily exhibition.

Thirty seconds later, one of these kind gentlemen has handed the cup over to me, all matter of fact, with a quip of, “you’ll be wanting a photo with the trophy then?” And there I am, holding one of the most revered pieces of silver in the history of the game - not a replica, not a pretend-it’s-the-real-thing model; no, the genuine USGA Open Trophy that was won just a couple of months earlier by the first European in forty years. To be honest, I was pretty chuffed, but the momentous nature of the occasion only REALLY struck me when my golf-averse wife asked if SHE could have a snap with the cup too – what?!

We offered our sincere thanks then made a quick exit, heading off on a wee ferry trip to Donegal for Sunday lunch with our friends then an afternoon visit to my sister in Derry before taking the late evening flight home to Glasgow. On that short, 25-minute journey, the plane only climbs to about 10,000 feet out of Belfast but I’ll tell you something now; I really didn't feel that I was on the plane at all as I’d been walking at least twice as high as it all day.

Article by Jim McCann


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