On the 24th April I flew from Ireland to Scotland and after picking up my hire car, I drove directly to St Andrews (the town).
I did a lap of the town then stopped at a pub and ended up having a golf chat with an American man who was in St Andrews to celebrate his 40th birthday. He was pinching himself about actually being in St Andrews. We had a long discussion about golf around the world, talked about Fairways and what I had done in the last 12 months. It was then time to catch up with my friend, Gordon Moir, who is the Director of Greenkeeping at St. Andrews, and a huge supporter of Fairways.
An icy wind was blowing. It was cold. Frigid.
I found Gordon in the carpark and he said Tracey Maddison from BIGGA (British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association), was going to be joining us.
As I put on what felt like, every piece of golf clothing I own, I met Tracey who was parked a couple of cars away. Gordon asked us which course we wanted to play, and since we didn't mind, he selected The New Course as it was a little more sheltered from the wind.
Gordon has played this course many times, but it was a treat for Tracey and I. Tracey had never played here and I had only played The Eden Course last year. Gordon chatted with the starter and we were off.
I've kept in touch with Gordon since my visit to St. Andrews last year and after a brief explanation to Tracey about me, he asked me how everything was going with Fairways. Tracey is the General Manager of BIGGA and was quite curious about how I started Fairways and how we have done so much in 12 months.
We had a wonderful chat as we golfed in the biting wind. My face was numb, but on the 3rd just after Gordon said we don’t have to play the 18 if the weather gets any worse, the sun came out and it was instantly warmer, making the rest of the round far more pleasant.
Post round, Gordon and I parted ways with Tracey. We were going out to meet Gordon's wife, Pauline, for dinner, so Tracey headed to her accommodation. I would be seeing her the following day at the BIGGA Central Section Spring Outing.
At dinner, I told Pauline and Gordon about golf in Bolivia and showed them some videos of the Bolivian juniors. The conversation turned to a presentation I was making about Fairways to Thornhill & District Rotary Club, and Gordon asked if I was visiting the two Rotary clubs in St. Andrews. When I told him I was not, he said he would contact both of them to see when I would have time to present to them. Unfortunately, their schedules were too tight for this visit, but Gordon said he would arrange for me to present to them next year when I am back in the country.
The next day I had a meeting with John Boyne, a caddy on The Old Course, and a member at St. Andrews. We met at the clubhouse and had a golf chat over a delicious hot chocolate. We had been introduced on Twitter golf blogger. I heard John’s golf story, about how he reinvented himself and became a caddie and we chatted about my nearly three years in golf.
John couldn’t quite believe that I had started a nonprofit sponsoring underprivileged juniors not even two years after I started golfing myself. He then took me on a tour of the clubhouse and we headed to the top floor with windows overlooking the 18th green. I snapped a couple of photos and then I was off with Gordon to Elie.
One of the greenkeepers, Craig Berry, had asked after me, as I'd met him briefly last year and today I was playing with him on the Eden Course. We were joined by Steven McInroy who works for SGM (turfcare machinery). Gordon proposed a bet on who would talk more, Craig or I. The boys laughed, saying Craig, however I knew Gordon’s money would be on me. (My money's on you too, Tiff. - Ed.)
Post round, we were joined for lunch by the group behind us. David Simpson, who works at Crieff Golf Club sat beside me at lunch and we had a good chat and he invited me to come and tee it up with him before I left Scotland. As I had time the next week, we locked it in.
The next day, Gordon and I were catching up with Kevin Brunton, who works for Greentech Sports at Gleneagles. We had a tee time on The Kings Course, but first I had a meeting with Alison White. Alison had recently left the R&A, where she'd worked for many years. We met at the St. Rule Club and had a good chat about Fairways and golf in Bolivia. Alison had visited Bolivia and knew of some of the struggles associated with golf in that region.
I was then off to Gleneagles. Kevin met me in the Dormie Clubhouse and we enjoyed a spot of tea as we caught up on the past 12 months. I don’t think he could quite believe how far we had come with Fairways. He offered to donate a fourball for our Awesome Foursomes fundraising that we will be launching soon. After a wonderful day of golf with Gordon and Kevin, and an even better Indian dinner at the Dormie House, I drove south to Lochwinnoch where I was staying, on and off, for the rest of my visit to Scotland.
I was staying with Karen. I had stayed with her last year, when Fairways was only a week old. She told her father we now had 20 juniors in 4 countries and he had asked if I would present to his Rotary club. I was happy to share our story.
The next day, I went to play golf with Karen and a couple of her mates from the village. In the carpark, a guy asked me if my accent was Australian. “You make golf videos on YouTube don’t you?” I hadn't made any since founding Fairways, but he told me he'd spent the night before watching all the videos I made on the Isle of Arran. He was going that weekend. I was heading there myself, to catch up with old friends from my previous visit. He couldn’t believe that he had watched my videos last night and here I was in the car park the next day. Crazy!
After teeing it up at Lamlash and Whiting Bay (and getting one of John's delicious curries), I headed to Argyll to see Robbie. We'd met on Twitter and golfed together in 2016. This time we were playing at Dunaverty. Robbie and I talked about my last 12 months and how difficult it has been at times as I try to cover the costs of Fairways. I was feeling down as I’d just told the Bolivian juniors they couldn’t play in the next two tournaments. I didn't have the money
Robbie helped me realise that doing something and giving them golf was enough and that the tournaments are an added bonus that can happen when Fairways has the money to support them. It was good to talk through all of my concerns and to reiterate to myself that this was exactly what I wanted to be doing regardless of how hard it was at times.
The next day, I was off to Thornhill to see Alastair and Brenda, and present to the local Rotary club. They gave me a tour of the local area, we had lunch in Drumlanrig Castle, then a walk around the trout pond Alastair fishes in, and finally a visit to the camera obscura in Dumfries. At the Rotary meeting, I was a little nervous, but Andy, the club's president, gave me a wonderful introduction (he had researched well).
In addition to the Rotary members in the room, Alastair had invited many of his golf friends, including Robbie Coltart, whose son, Andrew, played in the Ryder Cup for Europe and is a golf commentator on TV. For my presentation, I gave an overview of my nearly three years in golf, and how I came to start Fairways. I told them about Nate and Sam, our first Fairways cadets. I talked about our organic growth and how we pay for different things in different countries depending on the requirements.
After speaking for 20 minutes, I answered questions all the while with butterflies in my stomach. I don't think anyone could tell. I thanked them for inviting me to speak and Andy teased me about being nervous. He said he was impressed with all we have done in such a short time.
As the meeting broke up and everyone got to chatting Robbie came up and said it was unbelievable the amount we'd achieved in only 12 months. He told me about his grandson, who has recently fallen in love with the game (how could you not), and we arranged to tee it up next year when I am back in Scotland. His parting words to me were “I will keep an eye out for you as I am sure I will see you on television or in the Scottish press before we meet again”.
Six other people come to compliment me about my talk, telling me it was very informative and on point. Now I couldn’t ask for better reviews than that. I made a couple new golf friends that I will tee it up with next year and I have been invited back as they would like an update on Fairways and where the next 12 months will bring us.
I was so busy in Scotland. I caught up with Dan Kelly and George Hunter at North Berwick (Dan gave me a big bag of tees and markers for our cadets). I saw Ian Simpson, the Secretary at Crieff Golf Club, and we talked about strategies to grow junior golf. In Perth, I got some social media tips and learned how to use Boomerang, which is a video app for Instagram.
Another coincidence occurred at Dunbar Golf Club, where I went on the invitation of Peter Nevans and Paul Armour. Getting out of the car, I commented aloud that it was a perfect day for golf, and the men in the car beside mine heard my Australian accent. Lo and behold, one of them was Craig, who lives in Spain and who I'd played golf with in Barcelona in 2016. What a small world!
Craig's friend asked me if I was, "The girl doing something for junior golf?" I certainly am, so I gave them the rundown on Fairways before heading into the clubhouse to see Peter and Paul. I showed them some videos of the Bolivian juniors and talked about the fundraising we are doing. Pleasingly, Dunbar are also going to donate a fourball to our Awesome Foursomes initiative.
My final stop in Scotland was at Ladybank, where I was meeting Head Greenkeeper, David Gray. I had played with him at a BIGGA event in 2016. In the pro shop, I was talking to one of Ladybank's teaching pros, Gregor Wright. Gregor is trying to grow the junior program and has had some hurdles overcome as he tries to do things a little differently. I told him to be a trailblazer and just do it. I gave him a few ideas to try.
Out on the course, David told me he loves what Fairways is doing and will try and support us any way he can. As I travel, most people want to support us in some way, which is, of course, amazing. Whether it be donating a little something or just sharing our story it all helps us spread the word and get more children golfing.
If you can help, please give the gift of golf and become a Fairways sponsor.
Now, it's back home to Canada.