Carry On

The Greatest Round Never Played

By Teddy Stoecklein

June 19, 2020

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When I turned 30, I was living in New York City. I was not native to New York. I had grown up in Pittsburgh, where my parents were still. As a birthday gift, my father wanted to take me to Scotland to play St. Andrews, along with two friends. Naturally, he was using the million-some points he’d earned flying USAir, still headquartered in Pittsburgh at that time.

The points stipulated that the departure city had to be Pittsburgh. This was not a problem, really. I packed my bags and headed home.

The next day, at the USAir terminal in Pittsburgh, the fours of us dragged our travel bags into the terminal to the USAir counter, plenty of time to catch the 7 pm to Heathrow. My dad collected our passports and checked us in, with his usual gregarious tone when the attendant is an attractive woman. I was standing with the clubs, making sure I’d packed my rain gear. That’s when I heard the attendant say “I’m sorry, there’s no way he’ll be able to go.”

I knew immediately what had happened. In my haste to leave New York City the night before, when I rummaged through the firebox in my closet, I’d grabbed the old, expired passport. I had held onto it for posterity. It looked identical to my current passport, save for the hole punch in the top right corner. The one my dad was holding had a photo of me when I was ten, and had been expired for over a decade.

It was post 9/11. There was absolutely no way for me to travel to a foreign country without a passport. And purchasing a new ticket, that day, was in the thousands of dollars. My dad was scrambling. I was scrambling. Then the solution came to me.

My dad and friends would continue on. I had a lot of unused points on American Airlines, since my career had me flying from New York to Los Angeles. I’ll use my points to get me to Scotland, and I’d catch up with them as soon as possible. They took my bags, so I could travel light.

I boarded the 7 pm American flight to New York City. This one hour flight was the longest flight I’d ever taken.

If all went as planned, I’d get in a cab at LaGuardia, race back to my apartment on 81st and Columbus, hail another cab, and race to JFK for a flight to London. Flights to London left every hour. I was booked on the 12 am redeye.

As luck would have it, I had a fantastic cab driver. He waited for me while I grabbed my passport, then took me to JFK. I managed to get on the 11. I had a few drinks to fall asleep, but that plan failed. When I landed in Heathrow, I had to connect to Glasgow.

Navigating the airport wasn’t easy. The jetlag was apparent. Miraculously, I managed to shave another 5 hours by getting on a different flight to Glasgow, stand-by.

The original plan was to land in Glasgow and drive to St. Andrews, playing a round at Royal Troon along the way. That tee time was 10:12 am. My passport error would mean I’d just have to meet my father and friends that evening, in St. Andrews, missing the round at Troon. But now I found myself landing in Glasgow just four hours later than the original flight from Pittsburgh. There’s a chance I might make it to Troon.

None of us had cell phones that worked outside the U.S., so getting in touch with my dad was nearly impossible. As far as he knew, he’d see me that night. After making it through customs, I grabbed a cab, and headed straight to Troon.

At the pro shop, I learned my father and friends were about to make the turn. I found my clubs, and waited on the tee box, four pints of Guinness in-hand. Needless to say, the reunion was filled with laughter, high-fives, and maybe a tear or two. They gave me the honors. I took a hearty swig of my pint, addressed my ball, and shanked it into the fescue, OB.

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Carry On

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