Kansas Women's Golf Blog from Ireland

KU women’s golf Ireland photo gallery #1
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Kansas women’s golfer junior Minami Levonowich is providing blogs on the Jayhawks’ trip to Ireland. The entire KU team, including 2013 senior Audrey Yowell and minus freshman-to-be Pornvipa Sakdee, departed Lawrence on Aug. 10 and will return Aug. 18.

The Trip is Finally Here – Day 1 by Minami Levonowich
After many days of anxious anticipation, the wait is finally over. The Kansas Women’s Golf Team is going to Ireland!!!! What better place to have team bonding and of course, golf, in one of the most historic and biggest golf-loving countries in the world. The excitement was almost tangible in the bus as we were heading to the airport. Mook (Yupaporn Kawinpakorn) made us all laugh with her dance moves; Michelle (Woods) and Gabby (DiMarco) were singing songs at the top of their lungs; Fhong (Thanuttra Boonraksasat), Meghan (Potee), and Audrey (Yowell) pretended to be in a band, playing their air instruments to Hunter Hayes; while Mackenzie (Thayer), Carly (Humes), and I couldn’t stop laughing from the entertainment we were getting from our teammates. In just a couple hours, we will be landing in Dublin and from there, the week-long trip of sightseeing, learning the culture, and playing golf, will begin. All we can think right now is that the moment is finally here! I try to type up our stories as much as I can when I’m not sleeping (the best time for Michelle to take pictures of me). I will keep you KU readers posted on our adventures.

If Rory Mcilroy can do it, so can we! – Day 2 by Minami Levonowich
The minute we arrived in Dublin, we took a two hour bus ride up to Northern Island but not before stopping at this quaint breakfast restaurant called, ironically, The White House. In there, we had authentic Irish and English food from English tea and porridge to eggs on toast. “Oh my gosh, this is our first meal in Ireland!” Michelle would tell us enthusiastically. We found out shortly after that she would bring it up after everything we did. “My first shot in Ireland,” Michelle called after hitting her first drive on Royal Country Down Golf Club. Playing on that course was definitely an experience I will always remember. Even hitting from the red tees was a challenge since the greens were small and slopey but those bunkers! I don’t know who else got as much practice in those bunkers than Carly. “If you can make up and down from these bunkers, you will have no problem with any other bunker,” she told us. I have to admit, if it wasn’t for our caddies, I don’t know how many balls we would’ve lost. They were very knowledgeable and a lot of fun to be around. They told us that when Tiger Woods first played on this course, he shot an 86! We also found out that Rory Mcilroy practices on this course when he comes home from tournaments. No wonder he’s so good!

After golf, we were more than ready to go back to our beautiful castle-like hotel which overlooks the sea (and is apparently haunted) and eat at the high class dining room there. We either got steak, chicken, or duck and of course desserts. The homemade ice cream was fantastic as well as the white chocolate and pear mousse cake. Katy (Nahm) couldn’t hide her excitement as she went around the table trying our desserts. “It’s so interesting and different,” she said as she tried Gabby’s mousse cake. As much fun as we had today, I think we couldn’t get to bed fast enough. It has definitely been a long and eventful day.

Derguitt! (Hello in Gallic) – Day 3 by Minami Levonowich
Today is our first sightseeing trip here in windy Ireland. After eating breakfast at the hotel (can it get more Irish than baked beans with eggs and porridge?) we went onto our bus, ready for another adventure. Gabby, Mackenzie, and Mook were telling us stories about hearing plates breaking outside last night and was thinking maybe there are ghosts at the hotel! While riding in the bus, I can’t stop admiring the beauty of this place. This was exactly how I pictured it: vast green lands with luscious plants and old-style houses. I just love the fact that everything is so green and that you can see the mountains in the background. There are many fields of cows and lambs and so far, the skies are blue with just a few clouds. It cannot get more beautiful than this.

As we arrive, we enter this small restaurant overlooking the ocean called “The Nook.” In there we had sandwiches and soups and of course, English tea! We then walked down to what is called the Giant’s Causeway. I thought just looking out the window in the bus was beautiful until I came here. This was a whole different level of beautiful. The sound of the waves in the ocean was peaceful and the rocks looked like the end of pencils sticking out of the ground.

After spending two hours taking pictures, we headed back to the hotel but not before stopping at Dunluce Castle on the way. Only, there was not much left of the castle. The roof was gone and there were many cracks and creaks on the walls. Considering it was built between the 15th and 17th century, this castle is remarkably still standing.

At the hotel, we ate at the dining hall again but this time we had a celebrity guest sit at the table next to us. From all the arguments we were having on whether or not he was Orlando Bloom or at least some sort of celebrity, our questions were finally answered when we realized he was Luke Evans from Fast and Furious and The Hobbit! Mackenzie, Fhong, Michelle, and I went to get our pictures taken with him and he was very nice to us. We told him we were the Kansas Women’s Golf Team and he sounded impressed. He then told us good luck in our match with the Irish National team.

Since tonight was our last stay at this hotel, Gabby, Michelle, Fhong, and I wanted to make the best of it. We went down to the ocean, except we could hardly see the water because the beach had receded so much. It took us about 400 yards to reach the water! But once we did reach the edge, I can’t describe how amazing it felt looking back at the hotel and all around me. There was no wind, the sky was a dark gray color and the night was so quiet, we could yell at the top of our lungs without being heard (which was exactly what we did). I don’t know how many times Gabby, Michelle, and I yelled, “We’re in Ireland,” into the night but it definitely felt good. Even though we couldn’t take pictures because it was so dark, I will always have a mental image of this moment.

Bright and Early to Golf! – Day 4 by Minami Levonowich
Although we were not too thrilled to be loading our luggage at 6:15 in the morning, seeing the sun rising and creating a purplish glow in the sky was definitely worth it. We were heading to Royal Portrush Golf Club which was about two hours away. It was a quiet bus ride, as everyone just wanted to get more sleep in. The course was beautiful and the greens were slower than on Royal County Down. I felt like the course was easier to play on but the thick rough on either side of the fairway was still an issue.

We’re starting to see the pattern now: if you hit the ball straight, you will be fine in Ireland. The two courses we’ve played here were technically wide open with not many water hazards or out of bounds stakes but if you hit it in the bunker or in the rough, you may get lucky with bogey at the least. What stood out to me was that on several holes, we could see the Giant’s Causeway and the Dunluce Castle in the distance. O

ne memorable hole was on number 14 called the “Calamity Corner.” This was a long 195 yard par 3 but the hole was playing a lot longer, about 215 yards because it was mostly uphill. Mook surprised all of us by taking out her driver but made it work as the ball landed about eight feet from the hole! Mackenzie and I then followed her idea and we ended up less than 30 feet from the hole. We don’t remember the last time we used a driver on a par 3 (about the time when we first started to play golf) but we managed it well with two pars and a birdie from Mook.

The workers at the course were all very nice to us and gave us pictures of the course to take back with us. After playing, we had lunch at the clubhouse where we had tomato and basil soup with finger sandwiches. We then headed back to Dublin which was about five hours. We played Catchphrase during that time (Carly amazed all of us with her knowledge of trivia).

Our new hotel is O’Callighan which is located right in the city and is walking distance from almost everything. Although Dublin is not as picturesque as where we were in Northern Ireland, the architecture around here is still beautiful. I know we’re all looking forward to walking around here tomorrow!

The Big Match! – Day 5 by Minami Levonowich
After another very early morning (the hotel opened their breakfast early just for us two days in a row), we headed for Grange Golf Club which was where we were having our match with the Irish National Team. There were surprisingly many people who came to watch and everyone was very nice to us. The Irish team and the course hosted us very well. Overall, I thought we did pretty well. Audrey, Michelle, and Mackenzie won their matches and I tied my match. Fhong and Gabby had very close matches. Carly was two up after 12 but told me that her competitor came back and finished strong toward the end. Meghan said the girl she played with made many clutch putts to tie the hole or win. Mook played with the number one girl on their team and even though Mook played well, the other girl won 4 and 3. The Irish National Team ended up beating us by two and a half strokes but considering we never saw or played the course before, I thought we did well.

The players were very nice and asked us many questions about Kansas and how college golf in America was like. The girl I played with told me that she only knew Kansas because one of the girls on the TV show, 90210, was from there. I even got to catch up with one of the girls whom our fathers have worked together and have been good friends for a very long time (small world!).

After having lunch and saying good bye to the team, we headed back to the hotel and almost immediately went to walk around the city. Meghan, Michelle, and Mook ran (about two miles) outside for 30 minutes while also enjoying the scenery. Meanwhile, Gabby, Mackenzie, Fhong, and I wanted to see the stores and walk inside Trinity College. We bought several souvenirs and when we were in Trinity College, we were amazed at how beautiful the classrooms and the dorm buildings were. We even got to see a Cricket game!

By around 8 p.m., we had dinner reservations at one of the hotels and it was so unique because we had the room all to ourselves with glass windows all on one side where we had the perfect view of the city. The organization of the food was very artistic and everything had a delicate flavor. Overall, it was very good and with full stomachs, we were looking forward to sleeping in a little later tomorrow.

KU Edged by Irish Select Squad – Aug. 14
In its only formal golf competition on its Ireland trip, the Kansas women’s golf team lost, 5 1/2 to 3 1/2, to an Irish Ladies Golf Union (ILGU) select squad consisting of women’s international and interprovincial players at Grange Golf Club on August 14.

KU sophomores Michelle Woods and Mackenzie Thayer and 2013 senior Audrey Yowell each won their matches, while junior Minami Levonowich tied her bout. Levonowich fought back from two down to tie her opponent down the stretch.

“All in all, the players did a tremendous job of representing KU and we enjoyed playing match play as it was a nice change of pace from our usual format of stroke play,” Kansas head coach Erin O’Neil said. “We got off to a bit of a rough start and fought back to get within striking distance, but unfortunately, it just wasn’t our day in the end.”

ILGU Selection 5½, Kansas 3½ – Grange Golf Club – Aug. 14
Maria Dunne (Skerries) d. Yupaporn Kawinpakorn (KU), 4&3
Audrey Yowell (KU) d. Darcey Carr (Milltown), 3&2
Molly Dowling (Lucan) d. Gabby DiMarco (KU), 2&1
Emma O’Driscoll (Ballybunion) d. Meghan Potee (KU), 1 up
Michelle Woods (KU) d. Katie Whyte (Lucan), 4&3
Cliodhna McCarthy (Stackstown) d. Carly Humes (KU), 3&2
Minami Levonowich (KU) halved Amy Farrell (Moate)
Mackenzie Thayer (KU) d. Rachel McDonnell (Elm Park), 7&5
Paula Grant (Lisburn) beat Thanuttra Boonraksasat (KU), 1 up

Never Ending Rain – Day 6 by Minami Levonowich
We played the K Club today! The infamous course that hosted the 1927 and the 2006 Ryder Cup (unfortunately USA got crushed in the 2006 event). In the clubhouse we could see pictures all over the walls from the match between USA and Europe as well as the big trophy that sits at the entrance. The golf shop was overwhelming as it was bigger than at the other courses we’ve played in Ireland and almost everything had the K Club logo and the Ryder Cup logo. After buying souvenirs there, we headed to the practice area to warm-up before our round. The temperature was warm but the sky looked dark.

When we headed to the first tee, it started to drizzle but we didn’t think anything of it. About the second or third hole, however, it started coming down harder until a couple holes later it became a full blast shower. Everything we had was drenched even the insides of our golf bags. During the whole round the rain never stopped until the very last hole but at that point it didn’t make any difference since we all looked like we’ve been underwater for a long time. “Well now we know why Ireland is so green,” Carly joked as we headed back to the clubhouse with our soaking golf bags. We’ve really experienced Ireland now! I think to sum up how today’s round felt like, Michelle said it best. “That was the best miserable day of my life,” she announced as she packed her bags into the bus. We all laughed but it was true; the course was beautiful, challenging, and reminded us of courses in America because it wasn’t a link course like the other courses we played here.

Back on the bus, the driver wanted to show us some more historic landmarks even if that meant getting back to the hotel a little later. It was very funny seeing all of us wet, cold, and extremely impatient to get back to the hotel but I have to give him credit, for having to deal with all 18 of us every day, he’s been doing a pretty good job.

After changing our drenched clothes and attempting to dry our golf bags, we went downstairs for dinner. Conveniently, our dinner was being held at our hotel. The setup was a lot like yesterday because we had the room all to ourselves again with a set menu. The food was very good and everyone but me on the team got beef while I got lamb. When we finished our desserts (chocolate cakes and strawberry cheesecakes), coach came to our table and asked if we wanted to go to an Irish pub to listen to live music. We were all intrigued since we haven’t been to an Irish pub yet (not for drinking of course). Gabby, Michelle, Mackenzie, Carly, and I along with the coaches ended up going.

The pub we went to was small but unique. I thought it was the perfect size because there weren’t many people and therefore felt close to everyone in the room. We had the best spot, right in front of the singer. When we came in, he was singing and playing Irish songs on his guitar until Michelle requested “American Pie.” Then after that he played “Brown Eyed Girl” and other songs we recognized. We had a lot of fun and sang along to all the songs. We were quite popular there. I guess we really stand out in Ireland, wherever we go.

Cute Village of Kinsale – Day 7 by by Minami Levonowich
After packing up and leaving Dublin this morning, we headed for Waterford. We first went to the Waterford Castle by taking the ferry but didn’t stay long because there was a wedding taking place inside the castle. The castle itself was very beautiful and it looked what we would expect a castle to look like: stone walls with triangle-shaped spires all along the roof and big wooden doors. After taking the ferry back, we went to the Waterford gift shop to get souvenirs for our families back home. That area is known for handmade glass especially ornaments and therefore bringing back glass ornaments was a popular choice for us.

After eating lunch there, we drove about three hours to a small, quiet town called Kinsale. Looking out the window, I think we were all in awe at the beauty of the harbor and the ships surrounding our new hotel. Today was the perfect day to explore which was exactly what we did. There were many petite shops, restaurants, and bars, all crammed together along the side of the roads. We had a lot of fun walking around and taking pictures by the harbor. Gabby and Mackenzie even pretended to do the “Titanic” pose with their arms spread out over the edge of the railing.

A couple hours later, we headed to “The White Lady” for dinner. The menu had more meals that we were familiar with than at the other restaurants we’ve been to. For example, Michelle ordered the chicken fajitas which she said were really good and Mook and Fhong ordered the Thai crispy chicken for starters which they liked very much. I have to admit, the fish pie that Gabby, Fhong and I got was amazing. It had three different kinds of fish (salmon, havoc and monkfish) as well as prawns and scallops inside mashed potatoes and cheese. One thing I love about Ireland, the seafood is always so fresh. Our desserts were great too. We had the choice between a cream puff-like pastry, chocolate fudge cake, or ice cream. There was nothing left on our plates by the time we finished.

After dinner, coach gave us the freedom to walk around Kinsale before 11 p.m. We were excited to listen to live music again until we found out that the pubs didn’t start playing live music until after 10:30 p.m., which at that point was too late. Instead, we went to the local grocery store and bought drinks and snacks for our “tea time talk.” In other words, this was when we had real team bonding. Gabby, Mackenzie, Michelle, Fhong, Mook, Carly, and I sat outside our hotel and just talked for what seemed like forever. Even the rain didn’t stop our conversations. We just moved indoors after that. Gabby, Michelle, Fhong, and I lasted the longest and talked until 2 a.m. This was when I truly felt close to them because for the first time, we didn’t talk about scores or tournaments or even mention the word golf. I got to know them as regular college students and it was then that I realized why we came to Ireland. Not only for golf but for moments like these when we realize we’re all not that different from each other.

Best Course to Finish in Ireland – Day 8 by Minami Levonowich
Luckily we didn’t have to wake up too early after our long night. Today was when we were playing our fifth and final course in Ireland: Old Head. The drive up to the course was narrow and scary because of the fog that seemed to cover up everything in our path. I’m pretty sure our bus driver was very uncomfortable even when he made remarks like “who turned the lights off?” to make us laugh. Impressively, he made it with only a few scratches on the back of the bus (shhh…).

When we reached the entrance of the course, that’s when we realized how beautiful the area really was. The course was literally on an island and the gate that we passed as well as the clubhouse looked like remains of a castle. Almost everything was made of stone and we could see the giant gray and white lighthouse near the 18th green. The clubhouse inside was stunningly beautiful. There were big windows that covered the whole back wall so that all we could see was the ocean (not when we first walked in, though, because of the thick fog). The golf shop in the left corner was disappointingly small but we still managed to buy quite a few things. Everywhere I looked, there was a symbol next to the letters, Old Head. It looked like a tombstone with a hole in the top corner. None of my teammates knew what it was or meant.

After eating lunch at the beautiful restaurant there, we walked to the range where our caddies were waiting with our golf bags. I don’t think we got much out of that practice since the fog was still heavy and covered our golf balls immediately after we hit. We laughed about it and gave up after about 10 balls. We then went to the putting green and that’s when we saw the tombstone-looking thing. It looked exactly like the picture we saw everywhere in the clubhouse except this time there was a plaque underneath the hole to describe what it represented. It was called, “the stone of accord” and said that when you hold hands with your friends through the hole, your friendship is set in stone. After hearing this, we got excited and took many pictures of us holding each other’s hand through the hole in the stone. When we were satisfied with the pictures, we headed to the first tee box and were already amazed at the beauty of the course.

The fog started to lift and that was when we clearly saw the area around us. We could see the ocean in the distance and felt the strong breeze that came from it. After Fhong, Mackenzie and I teed off, we couldn’t stop taking pictures after every couple yards. The views seemed endless. From the edge of the holes, we could see all the way to the bottom where the waves would crash over the rocks. Fortunately, none of us are deathly afraid of heights! The wind picked up while we were playing and got even stronger on the back nine. It felt at least 45 mph and I was very grateful to have a caddie since he knew exactly how far to hit and where to aim in consideration of the wind. There were some holes where we had to aim way left or way right (about 30/40 yards from the flag) in order for the wind to take the ball to the green. Sometimes we had to aim at the hazard! We felt uncomfortable doing this but were amazed every time the wind would drag the ball toward the green. Club selection was very crucial too.

Meghan shared her story at dinner that on hole 14, her caddy told her to hit her 160 yard club when it was only about 125 yards to the pin. She took her 5 iron and when she thought she hit it so well and straight, she noticed the ball starting coming backwards when it was in the air. The ball then landed about 70 yards in front of her. Mook, who didn’t see her shot, went up to the ball and looked confused. “Is this your ball Meghan?!” she asked surprised. We all laughed and I noticed we never once complained about the wind. We were still very fortunate that today turned out to be a nice day with no rain. We were also happily joking that we didn’t lose all our balls on this course.

Our last meal in Ireland took place at our hotel and some of us even wore dresses for this occasion. The food was great as usual. We have not been disappointed with the food in Ireland. Quite a few of us ordered the mussels for starters and I admit, I wish I did too. I had salad with the penne pasta (my first pasta in Ireland) and I thought it was great. Michelle and I would tease each other on how much we could eat since we are two of the biggest eaters on the team. I won yesterday as she couldn’t finish her pasta and I wiped mine clean (I was so hungry!). Gabby and Mackenzie and a few others ordered Monkfish and I thought that looked great too. They both finished theirs so it must’ve been good. Our dessert choices were tiramisu, meringue, strawberry shortcake, and cheesecake. I’m not used to having dessert after every meal!

I’ve never imagined how much fun I would have in Ireland and to be able to experience it with my team was the best part. Playing on such amazing, well-known courses made me enjoy golf that much more and out of the five, Old Head was my favorite course.

What I noticed in Ireland is that people really respect golf and you can tell how much passion they have for the sport. I also appreciated nature more after seeing how green Ireland is in general and of course after seeing such gorgeous places like the Giant’s Causeway and Old Head.

To conclude my last blog post, I know that the memories we shared in Ireland is something we will always keep with us for the rest of our lives. Leaving was bittersweet for all of us and I know that as much as we would like to stay a little longer, I think we’re ready to start our season and for school to start. I can’t say enough how grateful I am to have this opportunity. Who knows when we’ll get to see Ireland again, if ever! All we can do is cherish the memories. As our bus driver always said whenever he said something funny or thought was important: “write it down.”