The Ratcliffe Ryder Cup competition travels to Northern Ireland

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The fourth  annual Ratcliffe College Golf Tour travelled to beautiful Northern Ireland this year. The group of 12 golfers were based in the sunny seaside town of Portrush. The wonderful Dunluce Links course at Royal Portrush formed the perfect backdrop for our annual Ryder Cup competition, which was contested as keenly as ever. The Dunluce is Rory McIlroy’s home course where he still holds the course record, a 12 under 61, carded when he was 16 years old! The Dunluce plays host to the Open Championship in 2019.

The players took the overnight ferry from Liverpool to Belfast and then travelled up the coast to Portrush before breakfasting and settling into our accommodation, a lovely bed and breakfast in Portrush town, run by the wonderful Janice and her family. Team captains, Mir Patel for the USA, and Ben Trudgill for Europe, selected the pairings for the opening four balls and battle commenced on the beautiful course at Ballycastle. Anyone who has been to this stretch of the Atlantic coastline will testify to its rugged beauty, rain or shine, and we were treated to both during our round. Many of the players had been practising hard and their efforts were rewarded with some fine net scores. The usual banter regarding some spurious handicaps was a theme throughout the week, especially as the USA leapt into a 2-1 lead after the first day. The conversations over dinner on the first evening were full of admiration for the course which they had played, the torrential rain showers, putts sunk and some that had agonisingly missed, and Alex Jarvis’ approach shot to the 4th hole, where he overshot the green by 40 yards and managed to hit a road sign! The ball was lost as was the hole, but it did not stop Alex and Emily beating Mr Reddin and Gianluca 2up – well done!

Day 2 was the first day of singles played over the incredibly tough Mussenden course at Castlerock Golf Club. What a magnificent course. The fairways had been cut very narrow and the rough had grown wild with the rain and warm sun of the past few days. Even the members said that it was playing tight! It was a day to be accurate rather than long off the tee, those who took a driver soon realised their folly and reverted to rescue woods or irons to keep the ball in play. The fairways were undulating, rolling left and right with humps and hillocks hiding greens as they traversed the dunes. The views from tee boxes and fairways were as dramatic as the result was emphatic – USA taking all 3 points to take a commanding 5-1 lead at the end of Day 2. Dinner that evening, overlooking the bay at Portrush, was followed by a visit to Barry’s amusements! I had hoped that we might drive up the coast to see the culturally renowned Giants’ Causeway and hear about the legend of Finn McCool. Sadly, when put to the vote, culture was a poor second place to the thrill of fast rides and candyfloss. It was lovely to see the group enjoy themselves so much; we shall never forget the look of horror on Gianluca’s face on a particularly fast ride, while Hugo couldn’t wait to have another go!

Our eagerly awaited round at Royal Portrush Golf Club brought another round of fourballs (we had decided to forgo the foursomes format this year). The day was bright and sunny and the course was quite magnificent in every respect. Having spent time on the chipping areas, putting greens and driving range, the teams locked horns once more with irritating shouts of ‘USA, USA’ or ‘you the man’ as they teed off – thanks, Mir! There was some wonderful golf played, and although the course was not as tight as the previous day, it proved to be a very tough challenge, even off the yellow tees. Having changed the pairings once more, Europe reversed their defeat from Day 1 winning the day 2-1, to trail 6-3 with one more match of singles to go. The tour party travelled back to Belfast in the early evening sunshine and boarded the ferry back to Liverpool. Before retiring to our beds we watched in astonishment as Germany thrashed Brazil 7-1 in the World Cup semi-final.

On arriving in Liverpool, we drove to Southport and a well-earned breakfast at a local hotel, before moving on to the Hesketh Golf Club for our last match of the tour. After a couple of hours’ practice, the teams teed up again in more singles matches over a wonderful sun-drenched course, which was half parkland and half links. The Hesketh is a superb course and had been nicely set up for the club golfer. Everyone enjoyed the much more forgiving fairways and duly ‘let rip’ with their drivers on many of the holes. Europe acquitted themselves well, winning 4 ½ of the 6 points available. Well done to Mir and team USA who took the title and the Mir Patel Golf Tour trophy, 10 ½ points to 7 ½ points.

Special thanks to Mir Patel, Ben Trudgill and George Santaney who leave Ratcliffe this year. All have been stalwarts for the School golf team and Mir and George have supported all four golf tours since 2011. Thank you also to Mr and Mrs Patel who kindly donated the magnificent tour trophy to the School in recognition of Mir’s four years as School golf captain. We wish all the boys well in the knowledge that they will now support the Old Ratcliffians’ team for future matches. Thanks also to Mr Gilchrist for supporting the tour and assisting with the mini-bus driving. Here’s to next year’s tour, wherever we decide to go.

Mr Reddin