Meet the PerryGolf Concierge Drivers: Joe Marshall

Joe Marshall (right) and fellow PerryGolf concierge driver Gerry Martin enjoyed meeting Tom Watson, 5-time champion of The Open, while accompanying clients to Royal Dornoch.

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 fourth in an ongoing series, during which we’ll profile the devoted, diligent Concierge Drivers who help PerryGolf guests: Play the Game. See the World.

Patience and a sense of humor.

Those are the keys to thriving as a PerryGolf Concierge Driver the way Joe Marshall sees it.

Marshall would know, of course, having served in that capacity for nearly two decades, shepherding clients around his native Scotland, pointing them toward the pubs and restaurants where they can hang with the locals, taste the flavor and savor each experience on their trip.

“It’s my hobby as well as a job,” Marshall said. “When I stop enjoying it, I’ll stop doing it. I like golf, I like working with people. I’ve made a lot of friends over the years at the golf courses and with the regular clients.”

It was through a friendship with another member at his home club that Marshall’s tenure with PerryGolf began. John Finnegan competed against PerryGolf co-founder Colin Dalgleish on the amateur golf circuit and was working as a concierge driver in 2000 when he told Marshall the company was expanding its tours.

Marshall, 60, was working as a taxicab driver in Glasgow at the time. He jumped at the chance to pilot golfers around the land where he’s lived his entire life and where the game was born.

“I had no experience in this line of work,” he said.

He adapted quickly and excelled easily, understanding that on certain tours there might be as many as 16 golfers, pulling in different directions, each having a unique vision of the ideal golf vacation.

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“There are only so many things you can do in a day,” Marshall said. “People are here to have fun. They want to laugh.”

Marshall keeps the mood light and the spirits high. He chuckles when clients arrive in Scotland with predetermined notion of the restaurants and pubs they should visit in the evening.

“They’ll look at guide books and think they know where they want to go,” he said. “The places that are listed in guide books, I reckon they’ve paid advertising fees to get in there. Very few are the ones I would use, I like the local flavor in St. Andrews, Turnberry and Troon.”    

As for his own golf game, Marshall said he’s never won anything other than the ‘odd five pounds’ in a match the club where he’s belonged his entire adult life, Haggs Castle Golf Club. The course, built in 1910, is a parkland layout considered one of the best in western Scotland. For many years it was site of the Glasgow Open and in 1986, the Scottish Open, won by television commentator and host David Feherty.

Near the end of a tour, it’s typical for clients to start planning ahead to their next visit to Scotland, wanting to experience the courses and cultures of one of the country’s unique regions, from the Highlands to Ayrshire to Aberdeen.

With a slight prod, Marshall lists his favorite links in Scotland: The Ailsa Course at Trump Turnberry, basking in the light of its recent renovation; Kingsbarns, host of the Dunhill Links and the first Scottish course to be built on linksland in 70 years when it opened in 2000; Royal Dornoch – an absolute must play for aficionados of prolific architect Donald Ross, who designed more than 400 courses in the United States.

You probably won’t enjoy the good fortune which spun toward Marshall and a group of PerryGolf clients on a trip to Royal Dornoch. They were honored to meet Tom Watson, the American legend and one of the first to convey to the golfing world the joy awaiting on the ancient links where Ross apprenticed under Old Tom Morris.

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However, having been there many times, Marshall will offer this piece of advice for those venturing north to the Highlands to play Royal Dornoch – play it twice, on consecutive days because the first round is certain to present a challenge quite fierce.

Marshall remains happily busy during the golf season from April to October, helping host a variety of trips with groups as large as 16 people and lasting anywhere from 5 to 12 days.

During the winter, he rests – as much as his seven grandchildren will allow.

His four sons and daughter all live within a five-mile radius of his home in Glasgow.

“They keep me on my toes,” he said.

He always looks forward to resuming his duties behind the wheel. Like other longtime PerryGolf concierge drivers, Marshall relishes the relationships formed through the years.

“It’s good when you get to know some of the clients,” he said. “Over the years we’ve become friends. And we stay in touch two or three times a year and get to know our families … build a bond and a friendship.”

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.

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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.

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.
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The Open field taking shape; PerryGolf takes you there in 2019 & 2020

The 147th Open at Carnoustie begins in 10 days. Final Qualifying was held last week at Notts (Hollinwell), Princes, St. Anne’s Old Links and Renaissance in the U.K., and continued last weekend on the PGA Tour where the top four finishers inside the top 12 at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier who were not already exempt punched their ticket to Scotland. Kelly Kraft, Brandt Snedeker, Jason Kokrak and Austin Cook earned their way into the field.

Ballyliffin’s Glashedy Links – and its sister Old Course – are popular featured options when PerryGolf visits Ireland’s northern coast. Glashedy Links proved an admirable host for the European Tour’s qualifier for The Open – the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. Ryan Fox, Zander Lombard and Andy Sullivan added their name to the tee sheet at Carnoustie through their strong play at Ballyliffin.

The final two spots in The Open are reserved for the champions of the Scottish Open and John Deere Classic – if those players are not already in The Open field.

PerryGolf is pleased to offer an array of Escorted Tours, Custom Tours and Cruises for golfers interested in tackling the majestic links of The Open rota and sites of Final Qualifying that are sprinkled throughout the British Isles. In addition we’ll guide you through the U.K. and Ireland’s multitude of other venerable layouts, including the familiar world renowned designs and the delightful hidden gems. Every package presents attractive options in course selection and trip duration, catered to fit the specific needs of each guest.

Royal County Down is consistently ranked top-5 in the world.

Anyone wanting to experience the action and excitement of The Open next year as it makes a historic return to Royal Portrush, join host  PerryGolf co-founder Colin Dalgleish on a 12-night, 5-round voyage from Edinburgh to Southampton, including rounds at Royal Birkdale, Ailsa Turnberry and Royal County Down. Attend the final round of The 148th Open and watch the game’s best golfers battle for the Claret Jug. (See all the details below).

https://www.perrygolf.com/golfcruising/the-open-at-royal-portrush-2019-golf-cruise-package.php

PerryGolf also delivers several other appealing options for golfers aiming to play Ireland’s best and enjoy the final round at Royal Portrush – here’s one example of such a Custom Tour: https://www.perrygolf.com/standard-quote.php/115139/The-148th-Open-plus-Dublin-Newcastle–Londonderry.html 

Those wanting to brush up on their history before next week’s championship by learning more about past champions of The Open will want to tune into “Chronicles of a Champion Golfer,” which is produced by the R&A. The first two seasons are available on Netflix, and elsewhere, while the third season is currently airing on Golf Channel. We watched the Nick Pride episode recently and found it compelling. Price, a gentleman of the game, discussed serving in the Rhodesian Air Force during wartime, the impact of losing his father at a young age and near misses at The Open before he prevailed in 1994 at Turnberry.

 

This is the eighth time Carnoustie has played host to The Open and the links considered the most difficult in the rota certainly has carved its place in the championship’s rich, storied history.

Padraig Harrington hoisted the Claret Jug at Carnoustie most recently, defeating Sergio Garcia in a playoff in 2007. The legendary Ben Hogan won The 82nd Open in 1953 in his only appearance in golf’s oldest championship. Hogan was also the last golfer to win the first three legs of the modern Grand Slam. He was unable to play the final tournament the PGA Championship, due to a scheduling conflict and the 36-hole-per-day match play format, as he came back from a horrific auto accident.

Yet, it’s quite possible that one particular championship at Carnoustie – The 128th Open – will live forever in infamy. It was a unforgettable moment in golf history, and one, unfortunately that will always be recalled for the man who squandered the Claret Jug and not the champion who eventually claimed it.

https://www.perrygolf.com/escorted-tour/scotland-home-of-golf-escorted-2019.php

Jean Van de Velde, a unheralded French pro, played flawless golf for 71 holes that week in 1999. He arrived at the tee of the daunting par-4 18th holding a three-shot lead, needing only a double bogey to secure the title. An errant tee shot was the first of a series of mistakes that ultimately created a three-way tie atop the leaderboard and a playoff won by Paul Lawrie of Scotland. (Here’s a good trivia question to ask while having a pint with your golfing pals: Who was the third participant in the playoff?).

This evening, Golf Channel debuts “Go Down Swinging,” which projects as an excellent documentary of the events 19 years ago. You can relive the agony of the final hole fiasco featuring commentary from the inestimable Peter Alliss, below. The answer to our trivia question is Justin Leonard.

Meet the PerryGolf Concierge Drivers: Neil Cruickshank

 

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 first in an ongoing series, during which we’ll profile the devoted, diligent Concierge Drivers who help PerryGolf guests, Play the Game. See the World.    

One of Neil Cruickshank’s first encounters with golf occurred in 1977 at Turnberry.

Armed with a degree in hotel management, Cruickshank landed a job at the famous hotel adjacent to the course in Scotland where American legends Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus staged their epic Duel in the Sun in The 106th Open.

The evening after the final round, Nicklaus, accompanied by wife Barbara, entered the hotel’s main dining room. They received a standing ovation and hearty round of applause from the other diners and guests, Cruickshank recalls. Minutes later, Watson entered to a polite, yet somewhat muted response. Perhaps the young American had yet to fully win the hearts of Scotland; their special mutual relationship accelerated that day, however, as Watson’s second consecutive 65 nipped Nicklaus and earned his second Claret Jug. He finished his career with five, tying the modern record, and, at age 59, missed a sixth by inches at Turnberry in 2009.

The storied Ailsa Course at Trump Turnberry, as it’s known today, remains one of Cruickshank’s favorite places to take his PerryGolf clients. He’s spent the last two years as a Concierge Driver, after enjoying a long, successful career in the hotel and service industry. A golfer for 50-odd years, he’s never played the game particularly well but that hasn’t curbed his enthusiasm for rounds on legendary links like Royal Dornoch or Turnberry, which he feels is even better following architect Martin Ebert’s massive renovation in 2016.

Regardless the destination, Cruickshank, 59, enjoys his role as Tour host because of the friendships and relationships built during the week-to-10-days spent together.

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“It’s two-fold,” Cruickshank said in a phone interview. “We’re making the trips a trip of a lifetime for a guy, seeing their enjoyment and excitement of the trip. We deal with all the detail. That’s all it takes and seeing all that is exciting. Meeting the new people and going back to old style hotel keeping where you are really taking care of your customers.”

Cruickshank possesses enormous pride in all portions of his native Scotland, from the rich culture to the natural beauty and certainly the golf which is beyond compare. He’s also a particularly fervent supporter of the national rugby union team and plans to travel to Japan to support them in the World Cup in 2019.

Then again, traveling is old hat for Cruickshank. Clad in a kilt, he was a volunteer greeter during the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine and ranks that as perhaps the ultimate sporting experience. The journey to Minnesota also enabled him to reconnect with former PerryGolf clients who reside in the States and have become friends through the years. It’s not unusual for Cruickshank to receive a photo text message when one is playing a top 100 layout on a particularly pleasant day, trying to make him a touch jealous – all in good fun, of course.

These relationships are the backbone of the experience for Cruickshank.

“It’s strange how quickly it does develop,” he said. “When you meet them at the airport they are so excited, like children at Christmastime or in a candy store. They are a joy to be with and that becomes infectious.”

“You get caught up with their excitement, just think about the next round of golf and talk about their previous round of golf, get to know them really quickly. There’s no barriers, away from their home environment, it’s quite amazing how much you learn about them and their family. You’re with them for big chunks of the day, really do build a bond with them.”

6 Nights, 6 Rounds in the Scottish Highlands and St. Andrews

Cruickshank relies on decades of experience in the service industry to determine the ideal agenda for each set of guests. Some might desire the fine dining options available across Scotland while others simply seek sustenance to survive until the next round of golf. Whatever their preference, his role as concierge driver demands that the clubs and luggage are always safe and secure while golfers arrive at the course well in advance of their starting time.

“Everything is labeled and I always check how many bags they have,” he said. “Many of our hotels have a golf storage. Each morning we get the clubs out and off we go. I check with the golf courses to make sure everything is in place. If caddies have been requested … we pride ourselves at PerryGolf on being one step ahead.”

The seasonal schedule (April – October due to daylight restrictions in the spring and fall) serves Cruickshank well at this point in his life. Married with three children, two of whom live in Glasgow and one who lives at home, serving as Concierge Driver on roads and in towns he knows so intimately enable him to provide a comfortable experience for all clients.

Memories lasting a lifetime are made on these trips to golf’s most hallowed grounds. Links that have tested the greatest golfers through the generations accompanied by dozens of hidden gems make every trip unforgettable and golfers anxious to return. Years like this one, which have been dry and seasonably warm, only amplify the expectations. With drivers like Cruickshank behind the wheel, clients feel confident they’ll be steered around Scotland in the best of hands.