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The Blackbush Causeway Coast Amateur – Golf Adventures in Northern Ireland
As the dismal month of May slowly and thankfully comes to a close in New England and Memorial Day weekend approaches, we are reminded that we are programmed to do certain tasks which are associated with this time of year. Those of us fortunate enough to own property at the beach will fight the traffic and make the pilgrimage to Cape Cod or Hampton Beach to open up the cottages and homes for the upcoming summer months.
Some of us will garner a three-day kitchen pass from the wife and family and take part in a three-day member/member event at their respective club. Others will take part in the customary Memorial Day Parades and barbecues which herald the start of summer. Lastly, many will be compelled to visit the local garden shops and finally put the vegetables and plants into the ground as we should now be away from the dangers of a “late frost” that will turn your tomatoes green and deaden all those geraniums.
Not being a man of wealth, my plans to open up the summer cottage are delayed until August when we trek the family down to old Cape Cod and open the doors to whichever cottage we have decided upon for our weekly rental in Eastham. My days of partaking in three-day golf events are limited as well as I am rationed to one such event during the summer and would rather wait until I can break 80, which happens sometime in July. I grudgingly do the plants and flower thing to maintain my good stead at home and I willingly accept any and invitations to cookouts, as beer and food are two of my fondest pastimes.
Commencing in the year 2000, my thought process changed as we approached the end of school and the beginning of summer. Now as the month of June approaches, my thoughts go to Northern Ireland and the legendary Blackbush Golf Tournament.
By way of background, I have always been the one in my crew of knuckleheads to plot and plan our golf adventures. Many such trips were planned around a visit to a southern locale that might be hosting an NCAA basketball event. Or, we often travel to the land of casino gambling in Las Vegas or Mississippi. Regardless of the venue, I was always the person who made the arrangements and corralled the troops. This, of course, would mean convincing certain wives that this would be the very last trip we would ever take, and that the trip would essentially be a spiritual exercise and retreat from the daily pressures of our daily lives.
As the millennium approached, I decided to attempt a trip across the “pond” to some foreign soil. After scouring the Internet, I found a tournament in Northern Ireland that welcomed visitors and promised an “unabashedly good time.” They were correct.
The Blackbush Causeway Coast Amateur is one of the largest amateur golf events in the world. It’s contested over four very good golf courses on the northern coast of County Antrim in Northern Ireland. During the fall of 1999, I contacted the chairman, John Dalzell, and inquired if I could bring a dozen desperate “Yanks” to the event. The entry fee at that time was less than $200 per player, which gave you four tournament rounds and a practice round. We rented two houses near the ocean, along with the requisite miniature rental cars which scooted us around the confines of the beautiful Causeway Coast.
I could spend a great deal of time discussing and describing the golf courses, but to do so would be unfair. You must experience true links golf to appreciate its beauty. The “Blackbush,” while it is officially recognized as a golf tournament, is a weeklong journey where you meet characters who are as colorful and varied as the courses you play. You’re paired with three different players each day, and by the time your round is complete, you have been invited to Scotland for a member-guest or accepted an invitation to meet at “The Anchor” later that evening for a post-round celebratory pint.
Gone is the cutthroat win-at-all-costs mentality that is so pervasive in America, whether it is cheating on birth certificates in Little League or playing with inflated handicaps at your local member-guest. At the Blackbush, you play a Stableford system and rely on your home course handicap. You play quickly, fairly and with great appreciation for the game of golf. After the round, the scores are turned in and the revelry commences. It was a grand six days in Northern Ireland for this lad and, as June commences once again, I begin to long for a return trip.
There is a wonderful website, www.Blackbushgolf.com, dedicated solely to the event. It provides an excellent portrayal of the weeklong festivities. Contact your golfing buddies and plan on making this pilgrimage at least once. The author is already plotting his next trip back in 2006 and is hopeful some of the Cybergolf hierarchy will be joining him.
Tim Bibaud is a well-known name in the Central New England golf world. A former standout golfer at Holy Cross, Tim is now the head coach of Assumption College’s golf team. While at Holy Cross, he captained the Crusaders in his junior and senior years (1980-81), leading the team to the NCAA national tournament in ‘81. In high school he was a four-year standout at St. John's in Shrewsbury, Mass., and won the prestigious Pioneer Award for golf. After graduating from Holy Cross, Tim attended the New England School of Law and has been a prosecutor with the Worcester County District Attorney's office ever since. In addition to his golf-coaching duties at Assumption, Bibaud has served as the head boy's basketball coach at Worcester North and St. Peter-Marian high schools. Tim and his wife, Elizabeth, live in Worcester with their three children – Alli, Patrick and Timothy.
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