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#SaintsinScotland - Day 6

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By: Louis Walsh, Siena Men's Golf 

After getting settled in to the dorms at St. Andrews university and playing the very scenic Kingsbarns golf course it was time for Scotland's true test ...Carnoustie. Or  a more fitting name, Carnastie. Widely revered as one of the toughest courses in the world surely did not disappoint. After teeing off with clear skies and a light breeze, the weather turned to cloudy and blustery. The wind was a constant 17 mph and gusted around 30. This was our first taste of traditional Scottish golf so depending on the wind our shots flew 30 yards further or 30 yards less. Due to an uncharacteristically warm and dry summer coupled with our beautiful weather the greens were impossible to hold unless we landed our shots well short. The thirteenth hole at Carnastie is a 470 yard par four with a shared green and two huge deep bunkers that resemble a pair of round spectacles. Ranked as one of the toughest and iconic holes, it was no joke. As the host of seven open championships, Carnoustie's closing holes were exceedingly demanding and required a great deal of precision to make it through. Standing on the 18th tee you could feel the stadium type atmosphere that makes major championships like no other. Carnoustie definitely showed us a taste of how difficult golf can be. The feeling of standing on the 18th tee where countless major champions had stood before us really made all of us appreciate why we play the game.



#SaintsinScotland - Day 5

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By: Mickey Sutton, Siena Men's Golf

We left Turnberry early Wednesday morning and proceeded to drive across Scotland to its capital city Edinburgh. The bus dropped us off just short of Edinburgh castle and we had the morning to tour the premises. Everyone went there own ways after the castle tour. Personally I spent the day with my brother, hopping around the town and exploring every street that caught our attention. Bus drove us to St. Andrews later that day and we immediately sprinted to the Old Course. 

 Wow! What a week! Our trip to Scotland has come to a close but the memories remain--a legacy of the epic we all will never forget.  We spent the first three days at the beautiful Turnberry Resort just south of Glasgow, our port of entry into Scotland. Our days were filled with breathtaking coastal views, tours of local towns including Ayr, trips to the spa, sunsets out by the infamous lighthouse, oh and of course, golf that tested all our skill, patience, nerve, and ability to adapt to various playing conditions. Wednesday, our lone day off from golf, was spent touring Edinburgh, a town saturated with Scottish history, local shops and pubs, and of course ghost stories. From Edinburgh our adventure headed north up to kingdom of Fife, in particular the town of St. Andrews, the home of the golf. We spent four nights in the accommodating dorms located at prestigious St. Andrews University. I believe it's safe to say our time in the city that gave birth to golf brought us closer to the game we all love and instilled a sort of deeper connection with the game. We are eternally grateful for the experience of a lifetime and look forward to the next Open Championship on Scottish soil. 

#SaintsinScotland - Day 4

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By: Kylie Strijek, Siena Women's Golf 

After arriving in St. Andrews yesterday, our first stop was Kingbarns Golf Links just outside of town.  Although it is a relatively newer course opened in July of 2000, it did not disappoint.  The original Kingbarns Golf Club was founded by the old Kingsbarns Golf Society in 1922, where Willie Auchterlonie laid out a nine-hole course along Kingbarns Bay.  The course as it stands today was the only Scottish course to be built on links land in over 70 years. It is located right along the North Sea, with spectacular views from virtually every hole on the golf course.  These views rival those at some of the most famous ocean courses, including Pebble Beach Golf Links.  Once again, we were lucky to have had such beautiful weather, making the round that more enjoyable.

This course proved to be a great test of golf for our group.  Each hole is extremely different and all require a wide variety of shots.  The wind had added to the challenge today.  Our caddie, Greg, was a huge help in shot selection throughout the day, proving that a caddie can make or break a round on this course.

That evening after golf, we walked down to the Old Course at St. Andrews, the birthplace of golf.  For any golfer, this is the chance of a lifetime.  Simply stepping onto the fairway that every great golfer has walked across was one of the most exciting experiences.  Walking across the bridge on the 18th fairway was by far one of the best parts of my trip so far.

Tomorrow, we look forward to playing Carnoustie Golf Links, also known as "Carnastie."  This course will prove to be a challenge for everyone in our group, and will also be the location for the conclusion of the Siena Cup. Go Gold Team!


#SaintsinScotland - Day 3

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By: Katie Nelson, Siena Women's Golf 

On our third day in Scotland, our main event was the second round of golf at the Turnberry Resort: the Ailsa Course. This course was home to the 1977, 1986, 1994, and 2009 British Opens and served as an exciting challenge to all of us playing the championship course.  As if the narrow fairways and undulating greens weren't enough, the course was filled with easily the deepest bunkers I have ever seen and fields of penalizing fescue and gorse. To quote Sandy the caddy, each hole had a "jungle on the left and a jungle on the right". This particular caddy in my group served his 37th year at the Turnberry course and had unbelievable amounts of local knowledge and course history. He even had experience caddying for some of the tour players on their visits to the course. Throughout today's round, he provided myself and my group with stories of his experiences, pointing out pin locations from the British Opens. He was also able to show us the spots of memorable Open moments, such as the lie Tom Watson had when chipped in on hole number 15 that became the pivotal moment for him to win that tournament. 

This course was right on the water, providing unbelievable scenery and breathtaking views of the rocky shores, the Turnberry lighthouse, and Scottish fields and countryside. Also despite the very lucky and beautiful weather we have been having, we were also able to experience a more typical Scottish golf experience by playing a few holes in the wind and cold mist. What would a trip to Scotland be if we didn't even wear our rain gear? 

Our after golf experience included another evening of dining and pub-hopping in a local city called Ayr. Ayr was filled with quaint shops and beautiful historic bridges and churches. We are constantly amazed by the friendliness and kindness of the locals we encounter. We love hearing their advice and stories, even when we have trouble deciphering their thick accents. We even drove by the birth-place and town of the historic poet Robert Burns. 

As today marked our last day at Turnberry, we continue to the town of Edinburgh tomorrow (which I have recently learned is pronounced as if it has an 'a' at the end). We are excited for our next adventures!

By: Riley McGraw and Jess Esposito, Siena Men's Golf 

The Ailsa Course at Turnberry Resort showed why it is a perennial British Open venue.  The views the Ailsa course provided were astonishing, the design of the golf course paired with the proximity to the Irish Sea were a match made in heaven.  Half of the course is set up right against the cliffs and beaches, each challenging shot is paired with a breathtaking view.

The Ailsa course proved to be the toughest challenge of golf that most of the players have seen in their lifetime.  From the Championship tees the par 70 course played 7,180 yards with undulating greens, TIGHT fairways, and fescue lining each hole.  All shots required commitment and precision in order to be rewarded with a scarce birdie opportunity.  Golf on this side of the Atlantic has a different feel and strategy to it.  Golf shots require: solid contact, wind conscious flights, and room for the ball to run.  Due to climate and course conditions the course plays fast and firm, which allows for creativity as well as course knowledge.  Aiming points differ in comparison to American styled golf courses which are tree lined or feature extensive water hazards as reference points. 

Ailsa provides a scenic view of the Irish Sea, yet rarely does the shore come into play.  The Championship tees accentuate the closeness to the Irish Sea and force tee shots to be aimed towards the fescue or well placed bunkers.  Photo opportunities were plentiful but birdie chances were seldom, Ailsa only allowed a handful of birdies to the two dozen Siena trip members which played.
The 9th and 10th holes at the Ailsa course provided dramatic views of the Turnberry lighthouse.  The lighthouse stands 24 meters high and was designed and built by brothers David and Thomas Stevenson in 1873.  The lighthouse was built on the ruins of the Turnberry Castle, once home of the Countess of Carrick, mother of King Robert the Bruce.

In the evening, Men's golf team members walked across the property to witness the beautiful Scottish sunset over the Irish Sea accompanying the lighthouse.  A couple of the family members and players went back into the town of Ayre for round 2, while other team members stayed and enjoyed the amenities of the Spa at Turnberry (sauna, massages, steam room, etc.). Turnberry resort has exceeded its reviews and reputation as a world class resort with top of the line staff and facilities.  We have been treated like prince and princesses here in the land of royalty. 

Today was the start of the Siena Cup which follows a Ryder Cup format the following results include pairings and point totals:

John Van Vranken III(Gold)   v. Mike Sutton(Green)         AS (1/2)
John Van Vranken IV               Ryan Simpson

Katie Nelson(Gold)  v. Jim Sullivan(Green)              JS BQ (1)
Bill Nelson                  Brendan Quintana

Kylie Strijek(Gold)    v.   Victoria Nguyen(Green)    KS MF (1)
Mary Fletcher                Ashley Nguyen 

Riley McGraw(Gold)  v.  Mickey Sutton(Green)    RM JE (1)
Jess Esposito               Jay Sutton

Lou Walsh(Gold)  v. Vincent Nguyen(Green)    LW (1)

Team Gold 3 1/2 --------- Team Green 1 1/2 

Tomorrow morning we leave for a day in Edinburgh and a night in St. Andrews.  Courses still on the slate to play include: Kingsbarns (home of a European Tour Event), Carnoustie (host of several British Opens), and the Torrance Club (designed by Ryder Cup Captain Sam Torrance).  Can't wait!

#SaintsinScotland - Day 2

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Men's golf poses before teeing off at the Kintyre course

Our first full day in Ayrshire dawned sunny and comfortable. Breakfast at Turnberry is a hearty affair, if 5 choices of yogurt alone is any indication. Students made the most of the lavish cold buffet and hot dishes to order to fuel up for the day. It was then off to the first tee of the Kintyre course.

Tom Alexander, the tee master, sent off foursomes, allowing ample time for golfers to be clear of tee shots. Most seemed pleased with their first shots. And a few, naming no names, found fescue, raspberry thickets and sand straightaway. Most groups return seated with the coaches from an aerie in the Tappie Toorie Grill above the pro shop. Dr. Vincent Nguyen's (Victoria's father) approach to the 18th green may - or may not - have kissed the window of the pro shop. He's a great sport, and his next shot rolled very near the pin. We didn't probe for scores, but there were enough in the 70s to make for a great day.

The majority of the group went for dinner in Ayr, passing through rolling hills teeming with sheep. On a turn we were treated to a magnificent view of Cluzean Castle. Ayr gives its name to the region of Ayrshire, where we're residing these three days. Ayrshire gave Scotland William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, and Robbie Burns. It's possible Robert the Bruce was born at Turnberry Castle whose ruins on which the resort was built. It's glorious countryside and seaside. Monuments to the three native sons of renown dot Ayr.

We were on our own for dinner, with most opting for West Kirk, a restaurant in a former Free Church built in 1845 - young by Scotland's standards but impressive from ours. A walk after dinner took us to a 15th century bridge over Ayr River and along a sleepy High Street. (The Marks & Spencer closes at 6:00 PM!) It was then back our winding, dark roads to the hotel to rest for the championship Ailsa course.

On a 15th century bridge over the Ayr River

View of Ayr from the 15th century Auld Bridge

Women's golf gets set to tee off at the Kintyre course

Greetings from Scotland!

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Day 1 - Sunday, August 25th
By: Mary Fletcher, Siena Women's Golf

We have arrived at the home of golf and Day 1 was certainly a day of excitement and new adventures. Certainly, the long day of travel was bound to catch up with all of us at some point. All of us expected to sleep on the red eye, but whether it was the abnormally uncomfortable seats, the constant snacks and meals provided, or the anticipation, I'm not sure, but needless to say, none of us got a wink of sleep. 

We arrived in Scotland at 7:30 am, or 2:30 am Albany time. We got through customs with no problem and gathered our bags, and some of us made our way to the currency exchange to collect our British pounds that we would need for the week. We were met outside by our bus driver, and once we loaded up, began our trek to Turnberry, which is on the west coast of Scotland. It was about an hour drive from the airport to the resort, through the rolling hills of Scotland. We were all thrown off a bit by driving on the left side of the road, and going the opposite way around traffic circles. Also, who knew that Scotland has sheep and cows everywhere? Once we got closer to our destination, we stopped at a store called Asda, which is actually owned by Walmart. A few of us got snacks, and some decided to get some pb and j for lunches during the week. Many of us had trouble paying, as we weren't sure of the different money, and alot of us also had a hard time understanding the people. We are still working on getting used to the thick accents the Scots have. Though it is English, it requires alot of concentration to be able to understand what they are saying. 

We then arrived at Turnberry, where we were astounded by the beauty. The players are staying in a lodge, which is basically a collection of rooms and a sitting area upstairs. The coaches and parents have a similar lodge of their own. Once settled, most of the boys opted for a nap right away, while the girls wanted to get right to the golf. We headed to the 12-hole par three which is right outside our lodge. 6 of us played, and despite the shortness, the longest hole is 70 yards, it was quite the challenge. Pot bunkers surrounded the course, and it proved to be a good Scottish welcome for all of us. Everyone had a bit of a different day. I played the par 3, went to the driving range, had afternoon tea in the lobby, then took a quick nap and shower before dinner. I know the boys enjoyed the par 3 once they got a little energy from their naps. We went to dinner at a place close to the hotel, and all enjoyed a hefty 3 course meal. Needless to say, we were all exhausted when we got back, as we hadn't had a good night's sleep in two days, but we managed to stay up for a couple more hours and call it a night. 

We are all excited to play Turnberry tomorrow and continue to be immersed in the Scottish culture!