Goalkeeper Gerard Doherty was like a kid on Christmas morning as he, along with team-mate Rory Patterson and Paddy McCourt, prepared to tee it up at Ballyliffin on Wednesday.
The 36-year-old was part of the Derry City team that took part in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Pro-Am event at a sun-soaked Donegal where the likes of Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood and defending champion Jon Rahm all enjoyed the magnificent links course.
“It was probably one of the best experiences I’ll ever have in my life and to be honest it’s something that we’ll probably not get the chance to do again,” he stated.
“It’s probably a bucket list thing for a lot of people who don’t get a chance to do that and thankfully we did and it went well. It was a surreal experience and the last couple of days I was thinking about and wondering what it would be like, but when we got up there, to be honest, it surpassed everything that we thought it would be.”
The 18 handicapper, who is in his testimonial year with the Brandywell club, admitted he was grateful that Rory McIlroy spent a little time with the Derry boys.
“Like ourselves Rory played in the morning groups and what the organisers do is, around lunchtime when the morning players come in, they give us some awards and he was in at that event,” he added.
“I think Padraig (Harrington), (Darren) Clarke, (Paul) McGinley were all also in the big tent after their round, but, yes, Rory was the big draw and we didn’t want to torture him too much so we sat back for a while. However, we did manage to get a few pictures with him and he was chatting away to us, asking about Derry City and the World Cup and it was nice to meet him and get a wee chat with him.”
Doherty, who along with Patterson and McCourt was playing with Nicolas Colsaerts, stated the big hitting Belgian was a true gentleman and the Creggan man also had a never to be forgotten moment on the 10th hole.
“Luckily enough we had Nico Colsaerts. He was walking past me on the range so I introduce myself and told him that he had got the short straw as he was with us three,” he joked. “It was my first time at one of those type of events and sitting at home watching it on TV it sometimes looks easy, so even seeing him up close hitting the ball, was unbelievable.
“All day long I think he put every single ball within two feet from where he wanted it to be - it was a serious standard, but to be fair to him he was sound, he chatted away and gave us a few wee tips.
Rory (McIlroy) was the big draw and we didn’t want to torture him too much, so we sat back for a while, but we did manage to get a few pictures with him and he was chatting away to us.Gerard Doherty
“I had a few decent shots to be fair, but at the start of our back nine, which was at the first, there was a few people still watching. I had a decent drive up the middle, but my second shot tucked in behind a bunker.
“I got my 60 degree wedge out and panicked a wee bit but I just swung at it and it ended up about two feet away from the hole. There was a couple of wee claps from the crowd and Nico praised the shot; it was a good wee feeling.
“Colsaerts was well into his football and he was asking how long I had been at the club and I told him 10 years and this year was my testimonial season, so even talking to him about that was a bit crazy.”
The City keeper. who had his brother Gary on the bag as his caddy, conceded sharing that once in a lifetime experience with his brother was great.
“We were given the chance to bring a caddy along by paying a few pound, so I decided to bring my brother Gary along. He’s a big golf fan and he was just like us when we arrived at Ballyliffin, he couldn’t believe the set-up and he really enjoyed himself,” he added.
“To be fair I have played in big football matches in my career but this was totally different. I was out of my comfort zone but overall it was an amazing day and for Lawrence Moore to sort it out for the boys, we can’t thank the man enough, because it’s an experience that we’ll never have again.”