The same day that Phil Mickelson was polishing off the PGA Championship at Baltusrol, another golf tournament of epic proportions was getting under way. Across the pond in beautiful southwest Ireland, the fourth annual “Red Necks Invade Ireland hosted by Charlie Rymer” was beginning the first round.
The RNII is a grueling test of physical strength, mental acuity and golf ability. It is a long and brutal championship contested over six days on some of the greatest links courses in the world. The rotation is truly outstanding – Lahinch, Doonbeg, Old Head, Ballybunion Old, Tralee and Waterville.
The athletes train for months and sometimes years to prepare their minds and bodies for the action-packed Stableford competition. The eligibility requirements are lofty and the stringent standards often lead to a small but elite field. Each entrant must be a certified Red Neck and have a check clear the bank for his entry fee. Obviously, these two criteria are, in all but the rarest of cases, mutually exclusive. Red Neck certification can be obtained in one of two manners.
The prospective entrant can have two former or currently certified Red Necks submit a written letter to the RNII committee for prior approval. The reference can be made orally where writing a letter presents a problem. The second method, which is preferred, requires that the prospective entrant require proof of entry at a minimum of two NASCAR races or three University of Georgia football games during the current or previous calendar year.
The format is simple, yet elegant.
A point quota for each player is determined by subtracting a player’s handicap from 36. As an example, a 6 handicap must pull 30 points to reach his quota. Points are awarded as follows: bogey, 1 point; par, 2 points; birdie, 3 points; eagle, 4 points. The quotas are adjusted after the second and fourth rounds. The bottom five finishers lower their quotas by 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 points, respectively. A player may only be plus or minus 5 points for any round.
All questions and points of contention must be brought before the committee. I am the committee.
This format keeps everyone in the tournament until the final day. It also keeps the guys from spending long periods of time looking for golf balls in the tall grass. And believe me, there is plenty of tall grass in Ireland.
I always tell the guys that we didn’t fly all the way over the Atlantic Ocean to have an Easter egg hunt. If you can’t find it in a minute or two then declare a “traveling unplayable lie.” Drop it where you think it should be, take a one-shot penalty and move on. Red Necks have no problem with this concept, and I think it should be introduced to the general golf population. But, alas, that is a subject for another day.
Some areas of rough aren’t as bad as they appear from the tee. The grass may be high, but relatively thin. It’s not so hard to locate a ball in these patches. In other places, a search is a waste of time.
This year’s RNII winner, who will remain nameless, is a flower shop owner from the Nashville area. He has never won any type of athletic endeavor and was quite thrilled to take home the massive first-place Waterford vase. He vowed that the vase will be perpetually filled with fresh cut flowers and prominently displayed in the foyer of his shop. The second-place finisher is a man who goes by the moniker “Buffalo.” He is a sandwich magnate and no man has ever earned a more well-deserved nickname than my friend Buffalo. This was his second go at the RNII.
Last year, he went home with a special Waterford trophy that the committee presents for outstanding merit among the nonwinners – in this case, flatulence of distinction. Upon arriving at home, his wife erroneously assumed he had won the trophy for his fine play on the golf course. Buffalo wisely said nothing to alter her assumption.
– Charlie Rymer, a former PGA Tour pro, is a golf analyst for ESPN who writes an occasional column for Golfweek.