To Ireland and Back - Day Two

By: Blaine Newnham

Editor's Note: Cybergolf's Blaine Newnham is in Ireland this week and will be sending daily dispatches. Here's Blaine's second installment from the Emerald Isle.

A Dublin Street Scene.

Before we decided to play serious golf on this 10-day trip to Ireland, we decided to be serious tourists. It wasn't hard. We are staying at the Dunboyne Castle hotel, near the site of next September's Solheim Cup battle between the best women players in the U.S. and Europe.

We're in County Meath, a bucolic masterpiece of green and sheep and hedgerows and little villages with pubs and banks, just about what you'd think Ireland would be. The treat is that after a crisp 20-minute walk, we were able to catch a train directly to downtown Dublin.

Dublin isn't among the architectural elite of Europe. It is a small city, really, but what reverence it demonstrates for everything that is literary and drinkable. In a period of a couple of hours, we went from seeing the esteemed Book of Kells - the 8th Century artwork by monks - and the jaw-dropping library at Trinity College to the touristy but treasured Temple Bar pub.

A View in Downtown Dublin.

Dublin is eminently walkable, although the cobblestones are wearing.

Trinity College is an oasis in the middle of the city; the library above the Book of Kells exhibition is almost too grand to be believed. It's four or five stories of old, leather-bound books so nearly arranged they looked almost like wallpaper.

We reached the city about noon. It was Sunday and just a few people walked the streets. By 4 p.m., the place was teeming. Tourists like us just looking around, and locals who wanted to view a major soccer match between Manchester United and Chelsea on a big-screen TV.

For us, it all came together at the Temple Bar pub. In one room there was the football match, and in another live and traditional Irish music. In between, we had a round of to Guinness, one Smithwicks, and a Harp.

Ireland's Ancient Newgrange.

The next morning we took a tourist bus out into the countryside of County Meath, to Ireland's Gettysburg, the memorial to the Battle of the Boyne which freed the Irish from the prospective rule of France. A triumph, it seemed, for Protestants.

The memorial struck me as a coming together place for both Northern Ireland and the Republic. We also saw the old relics of the castle at Trim - the largest in Ireland - and the Irish Stonehenge, Newgrange, which was built before some of the pyramids.

It is a domed cave with a slit that lets light shine through to illuminate the cave at the time of the Winter Solstice. It signaled spring wasn't far behind. If, of course, it wasn't cloudy.

Our first round of golf is at a Jack Nicklaus course, the Killeen Castle, which bid audaciously for the Solheim Cup. It should be a good transition to links golf, which is why we're here, of course.

Blaine Newnham has covered golf for 50 years. He still cherishes the memory of following Ben Hogan for 18 holes during the first round of the 1966 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. He worked then for the Oakland Tribune, where he covered the Oakland Raiders during the first three seasons of head coach John Madden. Blaine moved on to Eugene, Ore., in 1971 as sports editor and columnist, covering the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. He covered five Olympics all together - Mexico City, Munich, Los Angeles, Seoul, and Athens - before retiring in early 2005 from the Seattle Times. He covered his first Masters in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman, and his last in 2005 when Tiger Woods chip dramatically teetered on the lip at No. 16 and rolled in. He saw Woods' four straight major wins in 2000 and 2001, and Payne Stewart's birdie putt to win the U.S. Open at Pinehurst. In 2005, Blaine received the Northwest Golf Media Association's Distinguished Service Award. He and his wife, Joanna, live in Indianola, Wash., where the Dungeness crabs outnumber the people.