When I first heard about the Jude Brady Cup in April 2013, it was still very much a fledgling idea that Peter Brady was still putting together in his mind. He had had an idea of a Ryder Cup style event where handicap golfers could play against a team of professional golfers, with a few celebrities who had supported the Jude Brady Foundation, at Archerfield Links. He explained what the charity was and why it was so important to him.
I am blessed with two strong healthy sons, but have friends who have tragically lost babies at birth and have seen what a devastating effect that this has on families. It takes enormous inner strength to simply carry on when faced by such adversity, but to meet this head on and actively raise awareness of stillbirth and neonatal death takes a special kind of courage.
I was hooked and so signed up to support this brilliant cause. The fact that I would be playing golf at one of the best courses in Scotland against European tour pro’s was very attractive too.
Over the next few months, snippets of information kept coming out; Scott Drummond’s playing, DJ Russell’s playing, can you send a photo for the publicity release? What size jumper do you want? We’re getting personalized golf bags! If this was Peter’s way of building the excitement, then it certainly worked for me. When I saw the promotional flier on the website with the final line-up, I have to say that I was very proud to be involved in the inaugural Jude Brady Cup.
I started the season with a handicap of 11 and was determined to get down to 9 by the time we teed up at Archerfield. Every putt became “and this for the Jude Brady Cup”. I took every opportunity to play links golf to try and get some practice for “The Big Day” and was disappointed when it didn’t blow a gale. To say that I became a little obsessed would be understating matters. When the email came showing what colour uniform we would be wearing, I even bought some new socks to match our pale blue IJP sweater.
As August turned to September, and my countdown to Archerfield became less than 30 days, my handicap was stubbornly stuck at 9.6 and no matter what I tried, I couldn’t get that elusive status of “Single figure golfer”. Now that might not be much of a challenge to some, but for someone rapidly approaching their 50th birthday with a balancing act of work and family life to achieve as well as a lifelong hatred of practicing, this was becoming annoying.
Now most people will remember where they were when Freddie Mercury died, but where were you on 18 September 2013? The weather gods in Manchester on that Wednesday morning had decided to bless us with some weak watery sunshine and a slight breeze. A quick rearranging of my diary and I was free to play in the last Wednesday competition of the year. I turned up at Leigh GC and waited round for someone else to turn up on the off chance of a game. This would be my last chance to get down to 9 before Archerfield as the next two Saturdays were both pairs competitions, so this was it. I stood on the 17th tee with 35 points already secured on my card and so felt happy that a 5,5 finish would get me the 37 points and 0.2 reduction I needed. I had been positive all the way round and so gave myself a good talking to on that tee and stuck to my original game plan of parring every hole. Two good swings and a safe two putt on the 17th, got me 2 points so I was safe in the knowledge that I had finally reached my target of 9.4. I bogeyed the last for a solid 38 points and the elusive 9 handicap.
The next few weeks saw me fine tune my wardrobe, equipment and travel plans for the golf experience of a lifetime. Peter had sent us the final details of the trip and most of the players had managed to book accommodation in nearby North Berwick and also a practice round on the Fidra course on the Sunday before the match on the Monday.
Fellow Team Brady player Matt Watts and I had arranged to travel up together early on the Sunday morning so that we could get to Archerfield by 12 o’clock, have a leisurely lunch and then tee off at around 2 o’clock. Matt’s dog had a different idea as it slipped his lead on his early morning walk and gave Matt the run around for almost an hour. This put us behind the clock, but some nifty driving and quiet Sunday morning roads, meant that we arrived in East Lothian with time to spare. Well 20 minutes if I’m being honest. As the clock was ticking, we didn’t really have chance to take in the absolute splendour of the surroundings at Archerfield as we drove up the sweeping drive towards the clubhouse. We quickly unloaded our clubs and went to meet up with everyone else.
We paired up with James and Alan and went out to play. After a very enjoyable 4 hours, we arrived back at the clubhouse and made our way to the bar for a well earned pint, or two. The facilities at Archerfield are absolutely first class. There’s no stuffy, formality here; just wonderfully appointed rooms that exude class. The atmosphere was friendly, the service excellent and there was a real air of expectation of what was to come. We kept seeing Peter flitting in and out of a room that had been set aside as our Team Room, with a promise of “Just a few more minutes”.
When the grand unveil finally came, it did not disappoint. They had set out the room with our personalised bags in team colours on one side, with each of our uniforms hung on them. On closer inspection the bags were absolutely excellent. The IJP uniform of trousers, t shirt and sweater were all beautifully embroidered. The matching caps, (thanks Matt), set off the whole look. On closer inspection, we were also given Jude Brady Cup golf towels and a sleeve of logo balls. It really was like Christmas morning as people filed in and found their kit. Now it may be commonplace for the Team Jude professionals to be given outfits to play golf in, and I daresay that Andrew Coltart may have been just a little excited when he made his Ryder Cup appearance in Brookline, but for an amateur golfer to be treated in this way was superb. Each player was introduced, before making the draw for the morning fourballs. Jonathan Joseph took on the role of Captain of Team Jude and there was a real buzz as each pair was announced. I was really pleased to be drawn against Andrew Coltart and Dean Saunders in the fourballs and the Team Jude Captain, aka DJ Spoony, in the singles.
After the draws were made, everyone mixed together and chatted long into the night. Those of us who were staying in the Marine Hotel took a taxi and reconvened into the bar there. What was immediately apparent, was that the Team Jude players were really good people, who just happened to be exceptionally talented sportsmen (and lady in the case of LET Tour player, Rachel Drummond). There was no edge or ego in the room, just light hearted banter and bonhomie. We took to our beds nicely marinated in the local brew, but excitedly looking forward to the day ahead.
I tentatively opened the curtains early on Monday 30th September 2013, to see a lovely Autumn morning. Only a breath of wind and thankfully no rain. After a quick shower, I quickly changed into my pristine white trousers, blue t shirt and blue sweater (and matching socks of course!) and made my way to the hotel reception to pick up the taxi back to the course. The level of chatter in the taxi was much higher than on the way to the hotel as “The Big Day” had finally arrived.
We went back to our Team Room to have breakfast and then onto the practice area. As I took my first tentative swings (well lunges really), Scott Drummond set up on one side of me and John Parry on the other. Talk about being intimidated. I’ve been to many professional tournaments and played with many low single figure players, but it’s only when you’re 6 feet away from a pro golfer, that you realise how good they are. The ball makes a different sound when they hit it. It fizzes off the clubface and then soars into the distance. I managed to get a few shots away that didn’t scuttle along the floor and so decided that I was “ready”.
We were all called to have a team photo and then made our way to the first tee. It was only then that it actually hit me. I’ve made it to the Jude Brady Cup as a single figure golfer and am sharing the course on equal terms with golfers who make a living from this stupid game.
My Memories by
Founder of Friends of Fidra for players who have played in the Jude Brady Cup