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Tribe Women's Golf Blog - 2013 Spring Break in Ireland
Updated: Wednesday 03/09/2013 (ET)
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The Tribe women's golf team is spending Spring Break in Killarney, Ireland, exploring the sites and playing at several renowned golf courses.  While on their adventures, the team has aggreed to take some time and share their experiences with (a photo gallery is included at the bottom).

March 8 -- (Director Golf Jay Albaugh)

Well, the final two days of our trip to the Emerald Isle were experienced with beautiful weather and great golf courses.  Thursday, we played Dooks Golf Club.  Dooks is a hidden gem along the southwest coast of Ireland, near Waterville.  On 17 of the 18 holes, you can see the Atlantic and hear the waves coming onto the shore.  It is a challenging but very playable links course.  It may lack the dramatic dunes and sights that we played at other courses this week, but Dooks can hold its own with any other club in the country when it comes to layout and challenge. 

It was also the second day of the Ireland Cup competition and Team USA held a 14 1/2-9 1/2 lead after the second day of matches.  Myself and Betsy Birchall led Team Europe, winning 2 1/2 of a possible three points from Kelly Okun and Anna McMullen.  That was the highlight for the Europeans as the Americans dominated the other three four ball matches.

On our way back from the golf course, we stopped in the little village of Killorglin to get a picture taken with King Puck.  Every year, the town has a three day celebration in August in honor of King Puck - a goat.  As our driver Johnny told us, 'Any reason the Irish can come up with to have a boozer, they will do it.'

The last day of our trip took us to the northwest to play the highest rated course of our week, Lahinch.  Lahinch is one of the Top 40 golf courses in the world and has been touched by the greats.  Old Tom Morris designed the original course, calling it the 'St Andrews of Ireland.'  Alistair McKenzie and Martin Hawtree have done some renovations over the years.  One of its signature holes, the Par 3 Fifth, nicknamed the 'Dell' is amazing.  It measures over 200 yards from the back tee and you can't even see any part of the green.  The green is a tiny sliver that is nestled between two towering mounds - certainly not a par 3 you would see is any modern designs. 

Lahinch was also the final days of the intrateam Ireland Cup competition that saw Team USA win the three-day event.  This marks the 2nd consecutive Ireland trip where the Americans have defeated the Euros.  Team Europe is already planning revenge in two years when our men's team is scheduled to travel over on their spring break.  Perhaps a venue change (England?  Scotland?) could change the results in favor of the Euros.

As always, this trip is a great educational and cultural experience for our team members and it will be something which they will share and talk about for many years to come.  It is certainly a great learning experience for golf, as the player have a new appreciation for a totally different type of way to play the game versus what we get in the US on a daily basis.

March 7 -- (Freshman Alex Liu)

Today was the sixth day of our Ireland trip, and it makes me sad to think that in just two days we will be leaving this beautiful, pleasant, amazingly green (through very cloudy and rainy) country. I’ve been to England before, but Ireland is quite different. First off, there’s sheep, cows, and horses everywhere! I love it when I hear mooing when I’m golfing. The golf is also more scenic. The fact that we’re playing courses right on the coast is unbelievable. A couple of days ago, I got pretty close to the edge of a cliff that dropped off into the ocean. It was a little dangerous, but I enjoyed the thrill. The food is also a lot better than I expected. The French fries are to die for. The breakfast at the hotel we’re staying at is superb. I ordered pancakes once and they gave me crepes and it was the best surprise ever. The hotel in general is fabulous. And I LOVE the accents. I’m getting pretty good at imitating Irish accents too. I hope this stays with me when I go back to the US.

Okay, now back to today’s events. We played at Dooks Golf Club. It was a fun, short golf course but still quite challenging. There was more wind than previous days and it would go from side to side, so it was difficult to hit the green at times (at least I had some difficulty). I had a birdie on a thirteenth hole where I put an eight iron to about three feet. My teammate and match partner for the day, Kellie [Edelblut], did the same. Her mother took a picture of us with our shots, naturally. Kellie and I won our match as well (go Team USA!). I have not been playing well recently, but I saw some sparks of hope on the back nine when I was even for the last six holes. Our bus driver for the week (and probably the coolest Irishman around), Johnny, followed our group for the whole round. He was rooting for Kellie and me and was trying to harass the other team; it was extremely amusing. We saw a beautiful rainbow on the course and Johnny described it as “faint” but we thought it was gorgeous. We also saw a lot of bunnies, which were adorable. After the round, the lady members gave us free sandwiches and a ball marker. Irish people are lovely. Dooks Golf Club’s logo is a natterjack, which is a toad (so unique!).

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at this statue called “King Puck” which was a goat with a crown. There was sign saying, “Climbing the statue is strictly forbidden” but Coach decided he does not abide by Irish rules. He got on top of the statue swiftly and gave a big grin. We all posed in front and had a great Kodak moment. Across the creek next to it, we saw a German Shepard swimming for a ball, and we all squealed in excitement. We’re all big suckers for animals. Honestly, we’re all big suckers for Ireland. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed this country and everything about it (the golf, the hotel, the city of Killarney, the hospitality, etc.) and I certainly hope I can come back again in the future.

March 6 -- (Freshman Tina Chang)

Let the Ireland Cup begin! Today we began our own inter-team Ryder Cup-styled competition with match play. At 8:30 we loaded the bus and began our journey up to Ballybunion to play the Cashen Course. We started off the Cup with best ball match play, and it was Kellie Edelblut and I against Kelly Okun and her father. We got a true taste of Ireland’s weather with the wind and rain. Regardless, the Cashen Course was unsurprisingly gorgeous, and so once again we fulfilled our duties as tourists and paused to take an obscene number of photos.
Afterwards we ended up eating at the Horseshoe pub, which was one of those really cute, quaint, small-town treats. The food here in Ireland has yet to disappoint! I just might move here because of it. Anyhow, on the ride back to Killarney, our team decided to have a karaoke moment and belted out to songs of various tastes. Our team isn’t necessarily the most vocally talented, but we have a ball and take pride in being that way.
Later on at night, some of the girls headed out to the Grand International pub based off of the suggestion of our spectacular driver, Johnny. There, we got our fill of traditional Irish music and dancing. It really is incredible to see, learn, and experience so much of a different culture. Every day feels surreal, regardless of where we pause to just look around and take in the experience.
Tomorrow, we head to Dooks, which I’m super excited for. Golf has really been such a treat here. LET’S GO TEAM EUROPE!

March 6 -- (Director of Golf Jay Albaugh)

Today we ventured northwest from Killarney to the seaside town of Ballybunion.  Ballybunion features 36 holes and two of the better golf courses in Ireland.  We were supposed to play the Old Course (Top 50 in the world), but because of the wet winter, they decided to keep it closed for an extra three weeks.  Therefore, we played the Cashen Course, a Robert Trent Jones design and the sister course to the Old.  Not many people know of the Cashen, it is overshadowed by the Old Course.  If the Cashen were located away from the Old Course, it would be more well-known and higher-rated amongst all the courses in the country.

Today was the first round of the Ireland Cup, the group competition we are having among the group with the team.  After day 1, Team USA (captained by Coach Peffer) leads Team Europe (captained by myself) 7 1/2 - 4 1/2.  Team USA was led by Kelly Okun and her father Mike Okun, who got all three points in their four ball match.  Team Europe was led by myself and Jim Birchall (Betsy Birchall's father) who won all three points in our match.

After golf, we stopped in the quaint town of Listowel for dinner at the Horseshoe Pub.  There is a great atmosphere there and the food was tremendous.  It is a regular stop for us on the trip after playing at Ballybunion.  Tomorrow, we head to Dooks for the second round of the Ireland Cup.  Dooks is a hidden gem among the links courses in Ireland.  Another round of four ball matches are on tap between the two teams on Thursday.

March 5 –- (Sophomore Kellie Edelblut)

On day four of our amazing Ireland trip, the women’s golf team took a break from the course and decided to explore more sites!  Our first stop was at the Blarney Castle where we went through the underground dungeon, caves, and slowly made our way to the top to kiss the Blarney Stone.  When one kisses the stone they have eternal eloquence. However, it was an intimidating experience having to lean over the wall backwards to reach the stone while seeing the ground hundreds of feet below! Kelly [Okun], Tina [Chang], Katie, and I celebrated mustering up the courage to kiss the stone by taking lots of pictures of the beautiful view.

After the castle we decided to stop at one of Ireland’s largest shops and splurge.  This shop is known for having Ireland’s finest wools: sweaters, jackets, socks, hats, gloves, you name it!  It was endless walls of all the winter clothes you could possibly think of!  I bought a sweater I will happily wear around the William and Mary campus in the crazy March weather.  The shopping continued on to the city of Cork, specifically St. Patrick’s Street known for its assortment of stores! We went to Oasis and Penneys, two of the most common womens’ clothing stores in the area.  Once we felt like we shopped until we dropped, it was time to get back on the bus and head to our hotel.

The day was loads of fun, but we are all anxious to play at the famous Ballybunion Golf Club tomorrow.  We are extremely fortunate to play on some of the most beautiful courses in the world!  This Ireland trip is incredible and I’m so happy to be here sharing the experience with my family and my teammates!

March 5 -- (Director of Golf Jay Albaugh)

The last two days have been very good on the Emerald Isle.  Yesterday, we played Tralee, Arnold Palmer's seaside links course in Ireland.  Tralee may have perhaps one of the best back nines you will ever play.  Carved out of the sand dunes along the coast, it is a great line of challenging and scenic holes.  The stretch of 15, 16, 17 border right along the Atlantic Ocean, leading to the 18th hole, a reachable par 5. 

Tralee is currently undergoing planning for a renovation of the front nine, creating some brand new holes.  Representatives from Arnold Palmer's design group were there briefing the membership on the proposed changes.  Our group actually got a sneak peak to these changes.  Tralee is already one of the best courses in Ireland.  If the changes to the front nine go through, Tralee could challenge to be the best course in the country and one of the Top 100 in the world.

Last night also included going out to a local pub for some Irish music and dancing.  We don't just take this trip for the golf courses.  I believe learning about the history and culture of Ireland are also important during the visit. 

Today, most of the group took a chance to go sightseeing in Cork and Blarney.  A small group of diehards, including myself, drove up to play Doonbeg.  Doonbeg is Greg Norman's links design that opened 10 years ago.  You may not find a more dramatic course.  The holes wind their way through the towering dunes along the Atlantic, almost giving every hole/green a natural amphitheater.  Tall and thick fescue line the fairways and surround the greens, making it a difficult course.  Prior to playing Doonbeg, it was the type of course that people either hated or really liked - there was no in between.  Already ranked as one of the Top 10 courses in the country, I found the course to be very enjoyable and definitely worth the trip.  I am definitely in the group that thinks Doonbeg is a very good course.

Tomorrow, we begin the Ireland Cup competition amongst the team members, coaches, and parents on the trip.  Coach Peffer will be captaining the Team USA squad and I will be leading Team Europe.  We have two days of four ball matches, followed by the final day of singles matches on Friday.  It all starts at Ballybunion tomorrow.

March 4 -- (Sophomore Kelly Okun)

Today we drove an hour and a half to the next golf course on the agenda, Tralee.  Hidden just outside a small town, the course offered a variety of views – a castle, cliffs, a beach, fields, the list goes on.  Tralee was Arnold Palmer’s first golf course design in Europe, and he did a terrific job; the back nine is famous for its scenery, and we were all really excited to take pictures.

Because we are playing during the off-season, every time we hit our ball into the fairway we had to pick it up and place it in the rough.  Luckily, there were poles up the middle of the fairways to help us, not only decide which side we should drop on, but also to figure out where the pin was located as there were many blind shots.  I played with Tina Chang, Alex Liu, and Anna McMullen today, and we had a great time traversing the course with cows mooing in the background.  Johnny also accompanied us on a few holes, providing some great tips along the way.

Tomorrow, we are taking a day off from the golf scene, although our coaches, Jay’s wife, and Mr. Birchall will be playing.  We have not eaten dinner yet, but the gluten-free options are unlimited here and took us all by surprise! With the amazing golf and the delicious food, it looks like I am moving to Ireland after I graduate!

March 3 -- (Senior Betsy Birchall)

Day two of Ireland! After a much needed night’s rest, everyone woke up ready for our first day of links-style golf.  At 8:30 all sixteen golfers loaded into the bus to go to Waterville.  The hour and a half drive to the course was filled with history, provided by Johnny (the busdriver), and beautiful scenery.  I played with Tina Chang, my dad and Ryan Peffer today.  Since the Ireland Cup does not start until Wednesday, the four of us made our own friendly match: Tina and myself against my dad and Ryan.

Waterville was one of the most amazing courses I’ve ever played.  I hardly noticed the cold and wind since the course was so beautiful.  Multiple times it took my breath away.  After the round, we got a bite to eat at the course and picked up a few souvenirs at the pro-shop.  The drive back to the hotel was much more quiet since nearly everyone fell asleep.   For dinner we went to the local pub Hannigan’s.  Anna [McMullen] and I shared the duckling and sticky toffee pudding and it was delicious.  Tomorrow we will be playing at Tralee and I’m really excited to play another round of beautiful golf.

March 3 -- (Director of Golf Jay Albaugh)

Today was a wonderful day for the women's golf team.  We traveled from Killarney to the SW Coast of Ireland, to play the Waterville Golf Links.  It is always a warm welcome when you arrive at Waterville.  It is great to see my friends Noel Cronin (General Manager) and Liam Higgins (Head Golf Professional).  Both greeted us as we arrived and welcomed the team for their first time to the club. 

Waterville is a wonderful links course.  It is straight-forward off the tee (no blind tee shots, no surprises), but a difficult test of golf.  Your approach shots must be managed, as you can not attack every hole location.  It is certainly a US Open layout on the caliber of Winged Foot, Olympic and Shinnecock Hills.  There are many great holes at Waterville, but the most famous is the 12th — a par-3 called the Mass Hole (no, not an irritating person from Massachusetts, which we have all encountered from time to time).  From the back tees, it measures 200 yards and into the prevailing wind.  It is all carry to an elevated green.  But the hole has historical value.  The low area between the tee and green was where the early Catholics would conduct Mass to avoid persecution. 

After our round, I had the pleasure of meeting of meeting Mark Murphy's parents (his Mom is quite the character - I don't think I will think of 'finger food' in the same manner) in the restaurant.  Mark won one season of the Golf Channel's "Big Break" and over the last few years, I have had the pleasure of speaking with him at the PGA Merchandise Show.  Mark just qualified for the PGA Latinoamerica Tour.  It was entertaining to meet his parents and talk about Mark and the club.  Golf has enabled me to meet many great people in my travels and no matter where you go, there seems to be someone who always knows or has a connection to someone you know - something which makes trips like these important experience for my players.

On Monday, we head to Tralee; perhaps the most visually stunning golf course we will play this week.  The week is off to a super start and the players are having a blast with the links golf courses.  Stay tuned to our blog to see how the rest of the trip progresses.

March 2 -- (Sophomore Anna McMullen)

We’re finally in Ireland! All of the women’s golf team members have been so looking forward to this trip, and our first day on the Emerald Isle has certainly gotten us off to an incredible start.

After arriving at the Shannon airport at about 7:00 AM local time our group met our tour guide, Johnny, and loaded up onto our motor coach and began our route to Killarney.  Despite everyone being jetlagged, Johnny made the two hour drive from the airport to our hotel interesting and shared really great historical information about the towns and cities we were driving through.

Only 20 minutes into our Ireland adventure, we drove past our first castle, and even got a few pronunciation lessons in Gaelic, the original language of Ireland. We drove a little farther down the motorway through the third largest Irish city: Limerick. Crossing the River Shannon, we continued our journey and made a pit stop for coffee at the Adare Manor Golf Course. Designed by Robert Trent Jones, the Adare Golf Course gave us our first example of the kind of  courses we’ll play this week. After driving past the Manor itself, which has played host to US Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, we were on our way again towards Killarney.

Arriving at the Killarney Park Hotel, our group split up for two hours with the intention to reconvene later for a visit to the Mussrock Estate, an 11,000 acre park and gardens. In the meantime, some of the group went to the hotel restaurant and ate a much anticipated Irish breakfast, while some went up to the rooms to take a quick nap. My parents and I chose to grab a bite to eat at a tea shop across the street from the hotel, and also explore a little bit of Killarney before returning to the bus. I’ve always been a tea drinker, but the teabags we use in the Caf and Sadler aren’t quite up to the standard of the freshly brewed, delicious and authentic Irish teas.

At Mussrock Park, we were able to walk around the gardens immediately surrounding the central house. This house was actually redone in the time of Queen Victoria to accommodate a visit from the monarch herself with a special fire escape leading from the queen’s chamber to assuage her intense fear of fire. After taking tons of pictures, and climbing an enormous oak tree, the group loaded back up onto the bus and stopped by a natural waterfall with incredible views of Lake Laughlin at the top of a mountain. Our last stop of the day was the ruins of Ross Castle, which date back to the early fifteenth century, and have been seen in movies like The Quiet Man and Ryan’s Daughter.

Exhausted, but hungry, the golfers and their family members meandered through the centre of Killarney, and wound up in a classic Irish Pub. I personally really enjoyed my seafood chowder and fish n’ chips, and everyone at the tables eagerly partook in other classic Irish fare like bacon and cabbage, and braised lamb shank.

Tomorrow, we begin the main part of our trip, the golf. We’re set to leave the hotel in the morning at 8:30 AM, and head to Waterville for our first taste of Irish golf. All of us are tired from our first, extremely full, day in Ireland, and we are so excited to be able to play such historic and beautiful golf courses.  

March 2--(Director of Golf Jay Albaugh)

We arrived in Ireland this morning after the overnight flight from the US.  Today was a day a touring the region, led by our intrepid host, Johnny Whelan.  When planning these trips, my first request is always to have Johnny as our coach driver.  He is a fountain of information when it comes to the attractions and history of Ireland.  This being my fourth trip over here, Johnny has become a real friend.  It was even a real honor when he told me that Penn State's team is in the country this week and requested him also.  Of course, he is with us - score one for the Tribe!

On the way from the Shannon Airport, we visited the towns of Limerick and Adare.  Adare is a quaint village, with homes that have thatch roofs.  Along the way, we saw some castles, dating as far back as the 12th Century.  Johnny filled the team in on Oliver Cromwell and his campaign in Ireland from 1649-50.

Our home base this week is Killarney, in the southwest of Ireland.  After a bite to eat, we spent the afternoon at the Muckross Gardens, a beautiful botanical area set along the shores of Muckross Lake.  Next stop was Ross Castle, dating back to the 15th Century.  Ross Castle was the stronghold of an Irish Chieftain in the Middle Ages. 

After a quick stop at Tesco (Wal-Mart's cousin over here) to pick up some snacks, it was off to dinner and finally getting to catch up on some sleep before we begin a week of golf on Sunday at Waterville Golf Links.  A great course to start the week ... .  Keep checking in on our blog to find out how things go with the Tribe in Ireland!

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