Golf’s best end major year with The 148th Open at Royal Portrush

This week, for the first time since 1951, The Open returns to Northern Ireland. The field tees off Thursday at The Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush beginning at 1:35 a.m. EDT (6:35 a.m. local time).

This marks the second time golf’s oldest championship has been held outside Scotland and England. Modifications have been made to the venerable links, which was designed by Harry S. Colt. Starting their project in 2015, esteemed architects MacKenzie and Ebert used land from the adjacent Valley course to build two new holes – the 7th and 8th – specifically for the tournament.

Francesco Molinari is the defending champion. Rory McIlroy, who grew up in nearby Hollywood, is the betting favorite and shot a course-record 61 at Royal Portrush in the 2005 North of Ireland Championship. Since his victory in 2014 at Royal Liverpool, McIlroy hasn’t finished outside the top-5 in The Open, either.

Brooks Koepka, seeking his second major title of the year and fifth consecutive top-2 finish, has loyal caddie – and longtime Royal Portrush member – Ricky Elliott on the bag. Tiger Woods hasn’t played since Pebble Beach. He’s paired with Patrick Reed and Matt Wallace and tees off at 10:10 a.m. EDT on Thursday. Dustin Johnson hopes to bag an elusive second major after a series of close calls.

Expect to see chilly temperatures in the 50s and 60s, daily rain and of course, wind. Severe changes in elevation enhance the challenge at Royal Portrush and experience is a vital tool for those hoping to hoist the Claret Jug. The average age of the past 10 champions is 35 years, 3 months. The competitors won’t be able to get away with purposely overshooting the 18th green, either. They’ll face a devilish lie in the drop zone on the 474-yard-par 4 that finishes a diabolical three-hole closing stretch that’s certain to finish The Open hopes of more than one competitor.

PerryGolf is an Authorised Ticket Provider for The Open and proud to escort guests to the final round of this year’s championship after they’ve played some of the finest links in the British Isles such as Royal County Down, Royal Birkdale and Castle Stuart. There’s time to reserve your spot on a variety of Cruises, Escorted Tours and Customized offerings available for 2020 and 2021.

The 150th Open at St. Andrews in 2021 is certain to be a special experience in the Home of Golf. On one particular Escorted Tour, PerryGolf guests will play memorable rounds on a quartet of courses that have combined to host The Open on 35 occasions and wrap their trip by attending the final two rounds of the championship. PerryGolf is also pleased to take golfers to test their game on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush as part of our new Irish Links Golf Cruise, which has offerings in 2020 and 2021.

https://www.perrygolf.com/escorted-tour/scotland-the-150th-open-st-andrews-turnberry-2021.php

The new, condensed PGA Tour schedule put in place for the 2018-19 season means that The Open is the final major of the calendar year. It’s been a thrilling season, beginning with Woods’ exciting victory at The Masters, Koepka’s dominant performance at Bethpage and Gary Woodland’s flawless weekend to stave off Koepka at Pebble Beach. Still, the golf world has anticipated this championship at Royal Portrush ever since it was announced. The course is in excellent condition and certain to offer a stiff test. After a practice round earlier this week, the affable American pro Rickie Fowler avoided predicting a winning score due to the uncertain conditions ahead, saying simply that any round under par would be a good one.

Enjoy.

https://www.perrygolf.com/golfcruising/the-open-at-royal-st-georges-2020-golf-cruise-package.php

PerryGolf’s Howie Knodt claims Super Senior title

Turning 65 earlier this year opened a new chapter for Howie Knodt in competitive golf as he resumed playing and quickly returned to a familiar place – the trophy presentation ceremony.

Knodt, a PerryGolf Customer Relations Representative, won the Southern California Golf Association Super Senior Championship last month, firing 68-72-140 at Ojai Valley Inn & Spa for a three-shot victory.

Despite a distinguished amateur record, the San Diego resident played a limited tournament schedule in recent years. Becoming eligible for the Super Senior division, however, motivated him to practice. He delivered, withstanding the final round pressure of leading the tournament and holding off two-time defending champion Kemp Richardson.

“It was a chance to see a lot of guys I haven’t seen for a long time,” Knodt said. “I’m kind of surprised because I haven’t been playing any tournaments. Guess it shows I still have a little gas in the tank.”

Then again, no one in Southern California should be surprised.

Knodt dominated the Senior Division a decade ago, earning Player of the Year honors in 2009 and 2010 as he won the SCGA Senior Amateur and twice claimed the SCGA Senior Match Play title. He’s also a four-time San Diego Senior Am champion and 10-time club champion at San Diego Country Club, which was founded in 1897, has been at its current Chula Vista location since 1921 and has the reputation as the best conditioned course in the region.

In recent years, Knodt has focused on serving as a liaison between PerryGolf and the First Tee, organizing fundraisers for the 150 chapters nationwide. PerryGolf is a Silver Corporate Sponsor of the First Tee, which reaches more than 5 million kids annually, using golf to teach core values and develop healthy, productive citizens.

Knodt also hosts webinars for PerryGolf and escorts guests on a Tour on occasion, impressing several guests with his shotmaking and golf skill on a recent Escorted Tour to Australia and New Zealand.

https://www.perrygolf.com/escorted-tour/new-zealand-escorted-golf-package-nov5.php

Knodt brings a wealth of travel industry knowledge and experience to PerryGolf. Prior to coming on board six years ago, he spent three decades as the managing partner of Carefree Travel, overseeing a half-dozen retail stores across the San Diego area. He also owned and operated Special Event Cruises, providing continuing education programs at sea for doctors and dentists.

https://www.perrygolf.com/golfcruising/new-zealand-sydney-golf-cruise-2019.php

A strong player since college, Knodt received a unexpected stroke of good fortune while playing in a tournament in his mid-50s. He won six free golf lessons with San Diego instructor Bob Madsen and the partnership drove him toward improving his golf fitness and forming a plan that ultimately produced his early senior success.

“He turned out to be an amazing instructor and coach,” Knodt said. “He sat down with me for 2-3 hours and asked me what I wanted to try and accomplish. He laid out this plan to try and accomplish these goals. He had an unorthodox approach. The first two or lessons I never hit balls and he never put my swing on video.”

Knodt advanced to match play in the 2009 U.S. Senior Amateur at Shady Oaks, the legendary home of Ben Hogan in Fort Worth, Tex., finished top 20 in the British Senior Amateur at Walton Heath and dominated the competition around San Diego County and Southern California.

https://www.perrygolf.com/destinations/england-wales-golf-vacations.php

After selling his travel agency, Knodt’s relationship with PerryGolf began via email correspondence and subsequent two-hour phone conversation with president and co-founder Gordon Dalgleish

“I love Gordon and the whole group over there,” Knodt said. “They’re such a joy to work with and I love their business philosophy.”

Winning the SCGA Super Senior earned Knodt exemptions into several of the association major championships next year. He’ll play in four or five of those and continue his work with the First Tee, volunteering locally in San Diego and also helping coordinate the golf package auctions which raise money for the individual chapters.

And if you happen to run across him on the course, be certain to take the full allotment of shots your handicap allows. Chances are, you’ll need everyone of them.

Meet the PerryGolf Concierge Drivers: Stephen Outram

Steve Outram has been a Concierge Driver for PerryGolf in Ireland for 27 years.

PerryGolf’s Concierge Drivers play an essential part in any Customized or Escorted Tour. They fill many roles during your trip abroad – from recommending restaurants to sharing nuggets of local history and culture while also making certain every part of the Tour from the airport to the hotel to the first tee runs smoothly on schedule. This post is the third in an ongoing series, during which we’ll profile the devoted, diligent Concierge Drivers who help PerryGolf guests: Play the Game. See the World.

While serving as Concierge Driver on a recent PerryGolf trip, Steve Outram faced a dilemma at the Dublin airport, where he was picking up 10 clients who were continuing an Escorted Tour.

Due to airline error, the golfers clubs did not arrive on the flight.

The next day the golfers were scheduled to play the Dunluce course at Royal Portrush, site of The Open next July and No. 14 in Golf Magazine’s 2017-18 ranking of Top 100 Courses in the World. A round at Portstewart – also a top 50 layout – awaited two days later.

PerryGolf has multiple options to enjoy The Open and the links in the championship rota

Such a predicament may have confounded a less experienced driver, however, Outram leaned on relationships built during his near three decades working for PerryGolf to make certain the golfers were equipped to play these ‘bucket list rounds.’

Right away, he called the head professional at Royal Portrush and arranged rental sets. Aware that Portstewart only had a half-dozen sets of rental clubs, he also asked the Royal Portrush pro if the golfers could keep the clubs an extra day and use them at Portstewart, located five miles down the coast.

The Royal Portrush pro agreed and disaster was narrowly averted.

“Because of the relationship and the attitude there was no issue at all,” Outram said. “That helped me out greatly. Another driver in the same situation, his golfers didn’t play for two days.”

Assisting others comes easily to Outram, a PerryGolf driver for 27 years. He doesn’t share the story because he intends to boast and while he’s certain there have been other similar incidents during his tenure, frankly, he tries to forget them as quickly as possible. By his estimate, nine times out of 10 a PerryGolf Escorted Tour runs smoothly without so much as a spilled cup of tea. But, when the uncontrollable travel hazards arise, Outram accepts the responsibility of making sure the clients needs are met. Securing a caddy can also be a challenge for guests in Ireland because the loopers often don’t work directly for the club and must be reserved in advance. Outram’s understanding of this nuance is just another way he can enhance the experience for PerryGolf guests.

Outram is a native of Bristol, in the southwest of the United Kingdom, who has called Ireland home for 40 years. He lives in the golfers haven of County Kerry, blessed with wonderful links such as Ballybunion, Tralee and Waterville, and has been involved in the Irish Golf Tour industry since its infancy.

Royal Portrush (Dunluce) plays host to The Open in 2019.

“Tom Watson said a lot of good things about Ballybunion back in the late 70s and that more or less kickstarted golf tourism here,” Outram said. “Now we have the (Rory) McIlroy factor in Northern Ireland and the appeal of Royal County Down and Royal Portrush.”

There’s also a buzz in the air throughout the country as golf fans and tourists look toward The Open, roughly nine months away, making its return to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951.

Outram, 67, doesn’t play golf anymore. His knees won’t allow it. Yet he still shares the joy PerryGolf clients feel when they stride to the first tee at Ballybunion, glance toward the small stone fence separating the first fairway from a graveyard and begin their quest to conquer the venerable course.

From April to October, his typical season involves 10 to 12 tours. And the makeup of his clients has changed through the years, transitioning from male-only golf buddy trips to more couples-oriented tours these days.

Enjoy Ireland on a cruise with Azamara Club Cruises and PerryGolf 

On a recent Escorted Tour, he picked up four couples from the airport in Cork, delivered them to one of the wonderful links of County Kerry, and then took their wives on a sightseeing excursion.

While the men played the amazing Old Head, seeking birdies, the ladies kissed the Blarney Stone, hoping to capture its mystical eloquence.

“Every day is different. The wives add a bit of color and spark,” Outram said. “The variety of meeting the clients, every itinerary is made up differently because PerryGolf is taylor made to the clients request.”

Being familiar with the area enables Outram to make the proper dinner suggestion and handle reservations, if necessary. His experience also leads to giving each set of guests the requisite amount of attention.

Although he’s reached retirement age, Outram doesn’t intend to step away from the steering wheel anytime soon. He’s still happy to rely on his experience and local knowledge while delivering elite customer service to all who are interested in savoring the beauty of the Emerald Isle.

 

Thoughts from a strong period of golf travel around the globe

By Gordon Dalgleish

PerryGolf President and Co-Founder 

As we approach the end of summer and plans start to take hold for 2019 I thought it may be an interesting exercise to share some observations on the current state of the golf travel industry.
Read more “Thoughts from a strong period of golf travel around the globe”

Meet the PerryGolf Concierge Drivers: Angus McIntosh

PerryGolf’s Concierge Drivers play an essential part in any Customized or Escorted Tour. They fill many roles during your trip abroad – from recommending restaurants to sharing nuggets of local history and culture while also making certain every part of the Tour from the airport to the hotel to the first tee runs smoothly on schedule. This post is the second in an ongoing series, during which we’ll profile the devoted, diligent Concierge Drivers who help PerryGolf guests: Play the Game. See the World.

(Learn more about PerryGolf Concierge Driver Neil Cruickshank)

Angus McIntosh didn’t anticipate embarking on a second career as a PerryGolf Concierge Driver and Cruise host. Now, a decade into these roles, he finds it difficult to imagine life without the guests met and tours led.

A native of Islay, Scotland, McIntosh spent 30 years as a Police Inspector in Glasgow and the town of Oban, on the country’s west coast. Upon retirement at age 48, he filled his days in the usual manner, spending time with his family and playing rounds of golf at The Bishopbriggs Golf Club – which he joined at age 10, and where today he resides 400 yards away from the clubhouse. One day after a round, he became aware of PerryGolf during a conversation. He made contact with the company and shortly thereafter began helping on cruises and meeting guests at the airport.

“I really wasn’t looking for a job,” McIntosh said in a recent phone interview from Scotland, where he’s enjoyed the warm, dry summer. “I like the freedom to deliver each tour as what I see as my way of doing it. There’s a template in place and a generic way of doing it but the company realizes that each person is an individual and has their own way of doing it. I like to give the people a bit of general information about the places that we’re going to.”

McIntosh honed his skills dealing with people during his long, successful career on the police force. Obviously the tenor of a PerryGolf trip is much different than what’s required on the beat, but his experience making decisions and organizing large groups of people can come in handy as he shepherds guests on their journey in a safe, timely manner. 

“The whole thing is about a worry-free holiday for the guests,” he said. “We’re there to push them in the right direction. As drivers, we provide a pretty unique experience, a concierge service on the road, similar to a concierge in the hotel.”

At the trip’s outset, McIntosh tries to understand the desires of a group. Perhaps it consists of four couples and they are interested in fine dining and sightseeing. Or maybe, it’s a group of eight men focused solely on the golf and unconcerned with historical landmarks or upscale restaurants. Some guests simply want to become immersed in the local community and culture during their holiday. Regardless, possessing intimate knowledge of his native land enables McIntosh to ensure their needs are met. 

On a recent assignment, McIntosh led PerryGolf’s Best of Scotland Escorted Tour. He speaks fondly of the concentration of championship courses available in golf’s homeland and requiring minimal travel or transfer of accommodations. Where else, McIntosh asks, can a golfer have a game at epic links such as St. Andrews, Troon, Turnberry, Carnoustie and Prestwick in a five-day span and spend only four or five hours in transit, traveling comfortably, of course, in a PerryGolf VIP Coach.

Rightfully proud of his homeland, McIntosh loves St. Andrews, however, his favorite area is the Scottish Highlands, an area ripe with beauty and rich with mystical bucket list destinations around Inverness, such as Nairn, Cruden Bay and Royal Dornoch – which tops the list of none other than Tom Watson, five times champion of The Open.

“From a driver’s point of view it’s very picturesque and there are a couple of beautiful detours you can take if the golfers are interested,” he said. “Getting about up there is also pretty easy.”

McIntosh and PerryGolf co-founder Colin Dalgleish depart Aug. 8th on the Baltic Sea Golf Cruise. McIntosh helped host guests on PerryGolf’s first voyage to this beautiful corner of the world two years ago and looks forward to returning because of the hospitality received at Gorki GC in St. Petersburg, Russia and throughout the region. He’s proud to play a role in helping these cruises run smoothly, from shuttling clubs to the course where they await the golfers on their arrival from the ship to ensuring each golfer returns to Azamara Journey within a comfortable time frame after the round, so each can embrace the area’s sights and scenes alongside their partner or other guests.

Land or sea, tour or cruise, Scotland or Scandinavia, building relationships with PerryGolf guests remains the common thread. Like many Concierge Drivers, he remains in regular contact with guests who have become friends through regular correspondence or return trips to the U.K.

“You get to know them quite well on a personal basis and you get to be quite friendly with them,” he said. “You want them to go back and tell everybody so they send people back to our country to experience what they have as well.”

Listening to McIntosh, 58, it’s obvious he’s found the ideal occupation for this stage in life.

“If I left PerryGolf I’d probably retire properly,” he said with a laugh. “I get along well with the staff. Once you’re out on the road you’re left to your own. It’s not like they’re calling every two or three minutes to check on you. For me it’s been a great experience. It’s nothing I thought I would ever do. I’m in no great hurry to throw in the towel just now.”