Special Olympics Ireland athlete Rita Dunne, from Kells, Co. Meath went to New Zealand in March with her golfing chaperone Anne Campbell for the second ever Galfcuig Golf competition which took place in Auckland, New Zealand.
Rita plays in Headford golf club and plays off 24. She started golf at the age of 18 in Ballyliffen in Carndonagh, Co Donegal under the watchful eye of her family, all of whom are involved in the game of golf. Galfcuig is played by teams of five, hence the name - "galf," Irish for golf, and "cuig," Irish for five. Two teams tee off on each hole with a shotgun (in this case, a cannon start).
Before the start, each team member is allocated one different club, the players retain that club and play all 18 holes in the same order with one ball. That can mean a par three on one-hole results in the first player on the next driving off with a sand wedge and another team member getting out of a bunker with a driver. Only on the green is a putter made available. There are no handicaps involved and teams can be all-men, all-women or mixed. There is only
one score, the overall score of the team. After golf, there is a Green Bow Tie dinner and an auction.
The New Zealand Special Olympics team did so well at the Special Olympics World Summer Games last year and established such strong relationships with their counterparts in Ireland, that some of the proceeds of Galfcuig Number Two will go towards funding travel scholarships to allow the exchange of Special Olympics athletes between both countries. This is an innovation which should lead not only to forging even stronger bonds between Ireland and New Zealand, but also providing life enhancing experiences to many Special Olympic athletes in both countries. Rita Dunne and Anne Campbell will return from New Zealand on April 8.
Rita kept a diary of her trip to Special Olympics New Zealand. To follow her adventure to Auckland, read on!
Saturday, March 27, 2004
1.50 pm – Rita and Anne leave with Pat and Susan for the airport. Dublin to London. On arrival at airport we check in immediately. Aer Lingus apologise that they can’t upgrade us, as the plane to London is full.
4:30pm – Plane leaves on time seated in Row 6E, 6F. On approach to London the Air Hostess announces over intercom “We have a very special passenger on board, Rita Dunne, who is on her way to New Zealand to play golf. Good luck Rita.” All the passengers clap for Rita. She is mortified but delighted. We collect bags and start off to find Terminal 3. We checked in immediately on arrival in Terminal 3. Again, as the plane is full they cannot upgrade us – we’ll try again!! After getting rid of luggage we go to Bagel Street and buy a snack which was lovely and welcome as we were hungry. At this point we went to the rest rooms and freshened up. Anne changed into tracksuit and runners. We walked round duty free and Anne bought a cheap watch as she forgot to bring one. We also bought two books and playing cards.
9:10pm – We boarded Cathay Pacific en route to Hong Kong. We settled into an enjoyable flight watching films and eating, not much legroom but we had our flight socks so felt okay. As we approached Hong Kong Rita couldn’t find her runners and was beginning to panic. Ann got out of her seat and climbed under her seat to try to locate them. After much searching Anne felt something and was sure it was the runners until she heard a little Chinese man exclaim ‘that’s my toe’. Rita was in convulsions laughing at Anne’s embarrassment.
Sunday, March 28, 2004
5.45pm – We arrived in Hong Kong at 5.45pm local time (11:00am at home) eight hours ahead. After filling in numerous forms we eventually got our luggage and on coming out we met a taxi and to save any hassle just took the first one. We are overawed at the first sightings, it is fantastic. The hotel is in downtown Hong Kong. It’s like being in the middle of a film, very bright lights and tall buildings. We are on the 15th floor. Rita refuses to look out the window.
9.45pm – Just returned into the bar in the hotel and had a snack (potato skins, pitta bread with lemon and cheese) as we are not very hungry. Off to bed now and hope we don’t wake too early – our body clocks are a bit weird.
Monday, March 29, 2004
7.50am – Woke up, down to the lobby in the Majestic Hotel for American breakfast, very good selection of food, cereal, fruit, toast, egg, bacon, hash browns, steak, porridge, selection of bread. After breakfast we go to the bank to change US Dollars to HK Dollars. On return we paid the bill and brought our bags from room to lobby. We left the bags in the lobby and went for a walk to find location of our hotel on return to Hong Kong. After finding the hotel we went to the reception to enquire if they had an airport collection bus. The man explained what we must do when we arrive back in Hong Kong. We went for another walk in and out of shops and spotted a few likely presents to purchase on return.
12.30pm – We returned to the Majestic Hotel and had a Buffet Salad Lunch. Again, the choice was brilliant. We paid 150 HK Dollars for the bus to the airport and waited until 1.50pm. The bus took approximately 45 minutes to get to the airport. We checked in immediately and went upstairs to have a drink of Sprite in Burger King. $17 for one regular and one small! We went to the loo and Rita forgot her jacket and had to run back for it. Thankfully it was still there. We walked around the shops in the airport and then sat in comfortable chairs. Anne read a Mary Higgins Clark Novel aloud and Rita enjoyed it. We talked about Hong Kong; our impressions are of a very clean city except for the overcast sky. The people are very friendly and helpful, the food is lovely, the hotel very pleasant.
5.10pm – We have another three hours to wait at the airport so it’s time now for another cup of tea and muffins.
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
8.05am – Board plane to Auckland. Pleasant flight. Arrived in Auckland at 11.15am local time. Waited for one hour to go through customs. They found an apple in Anne’s bag and fined her $200. What a welcome! They looked for shoes in Rita’s bag. No shoes. Met Helena from Special Olympics. She brought us on a tour of Auckland and brought us to a huge hotel Sky City, they are sponsoring the room. Rita finds a card and a box of chocolates on the bed, she was thrilled. Had a rest for two hours then a shower and off to explore surroundings. Anne bought a phone card and phoned home, spoke to Elizabeth getting up for work. We went back to the hotel to get a jumper for Rita, a bit chilly. I decided to look in Rita’s golf bag for her shoes. Thankfully we found them. We went to the top of the hotel for hospitality drinks and meet the other guests. We met an American lady and two business gentlemen, it was lovely. We had wine and cheese. We spent an hour chatting and then decided to go to bed, as we were both exhausted. We watched an old Coronation Street. Tracey had just announced to Haley and Roy that she was pregnant.
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
8.00am – Wake up. Make cup of tea and turn on TV. Off to town to find somewhere to have breakfast. Our accommodation is room only. We make our way towards town, stop off at a café and eat breakfast; the birds fly in and join us!! The boy in the café recommends we get a bus to Onehunga to do some outlet shopping. We walk to the bus station to enquire about taking a bus, number, station etc. Rita buys fridge magnets with Auckland on them. We find the stop and wait for the bus. A kind driver explains how to read the bus timetable. We wait approximately 15 minutes; buy some water, as it is getting very hot. The bus journey is lovely. We spend two hours in Onehunga; enjoy coffee and head back to downtown Auckland. We go into a food hall and have paninis, ham and cheese toasted, yummy! And two Sprites as we are really thirsty from the heat. Back to the hotel, stopping on the way to buy water. Change into shorts and tee shirt and wash a few bits and pieces as it’s a good day for drying on the windowsill. Set off for the roof top pool. The sun is beautiful so we settle down to enjoy it with our books and bottles of water.
5:00pm – Back to the room, decide to go to the theatre to see Mama Mia. Angus from Special Olympics has left a message on our phone. He wants to meet Rita at the drinks reception. We have to go again!! He has arranged a shuttle bus to collect us at 8:00am in the morning to go to a Track and Field event, we are volunteers. He has also told us that he has a Special Olympics athlete to play on Rita’s team on Friday, everybody is very excited. Rita is feeling a bit nervous and wishes it was over.
6.30pm – We meet Angus and his brother and a man who told us his uncle lives in Dunloe and sponsored the Mary of Dunloe Festival every year because Mary was his uncle’s wife, Mary Gallagher and she’s buried in New Zealand.
7:00pm – At 7 o’clock we head off to get something to eat before the show. We go to McDonalds. The show was brilliant, very funny. Back to the hotel at 10.55pm, make tea and go to bed. Early start tomorrow!
Thursday, April 01, 2004
Up at 7.15am. Get ready to meet Angus at 8:00am at reception to go to the Sports Stadium for field and track competition with over 300 special children under 21. Rita and Anne are volunteers for the day. Anne is ‘recorder’; Rita is a ‘runner’. The event starts at 10:00am sharp. The races are really well organised as there are over 100 volunteers, very impressive.
12.30pm – We stop for lunch, sandwiches, sausage rolls and tea, very welcome. The sun stays behind the clouds but we still manage to get sunburnt. The competition resumes at 1:00pm and finishes at 2.30pm. On the way back we stop off at a shopping mall as Sue has told us that we need something green for the dinner tomorrow night. Anne gets a green top and Rita gets green jewellery, as she really wants to wear her sparkly top. We meet Angus and Sue and have coffee and cake. Back to hotel for bath. Rita goes for a swim. Sue rings to organise a drink before a meal. We go to bar and wait for Anna and Ella. We walk to the harbour to a Chinese restaurant. We order a meal for the five of us, it comes to $125. Back to the hotel in a taxi early start tomorrow. Leaving Auckland to go to Gulf Harbour to play in the golf tournament.
Friday, April 02, 2004
6:00am – Travel to Gulf Harbour to play in the Gulfcuig competition. We wait for Sue as she slept in. We leave Sky City at 7.30am and arrive in Gulf Harbour at 8.30am. After checking into hotel we go to the golf club to set up goody bags and tee shirts for competitors. Anne is asked to take charge of the barbeque for the day. She cooks 300 sausages, butters, and bread. Rodney Walsh, a former Irish Consulate in New Zealand arrives in a buggy and invites Anne to go around the course. He’s a desperate driver, a terrifying experience! Rita goes off with her team in the buggy. The course is so long everyone has to use a buggy. Rita is joined by Daniel, a New Zealand Special Olympics athlete. The golfers are due back at the golf club at 4.30pm. Anne is asked to help decorate the tables for dinner tonight. She puts green, white and gold ribbons on the glasses. The tables are beautifully decorated with gold glitter and tiny shamrocks. We all go back to the hotel and get dressed for the event. We have half an hour to get ready. As the event is sponsored by Guinness the drink is flowing. There is a céilí band and Irish dancers. After dinner there is an auction to raise money for Special Olympics. They raise $7000. The dinner and entertainment finishes at 11:00pm thank God, as we are all shattered after such a long day. We are going to Lake Taupo tomorrow for the weekend. We are supposed to be stopping off on the way back but I think we’ll ask to go straight back to Sky City as Rita is tired after so much golf. We will get up at 8:00am tomorrow. Met loads of people from Ireland. Mary from Leitrim, Frank from Wexford, Carol from Co. Down. Harry from Ballycastle, spoke to Anna whose brother is the Captain of the All Blacks team.
Saturday, April 03, 2004
7:00am: Wake up. We are leaving for Taupo today so we get ready, check out and have breakfast. We eat bacon and poached egg on toast, yummy! We say goodbye to Angus and Anna and head for Taupo in Sue’s car at 9.30am. We have a four-hour drive to Taupo but it is very pleasant as the sun is shining. We arrive at the golf course and the athletes have already started so we make our way to the golf course to start the skills competition. It is a glorious day and we all enjoy it. Rita gets a lovely hole in one and is thrilled. After the competition we go back to our accommodation, which is a chalet on a holiday campsite. Rita chooses the double bed and Anne has the single. We make a cup of tea and have a rest. Then we walk back to the golf club for dinner. Sue arrives a short time after us and buys us a drink. The meal is beautiful, ham, pork, beef and vegetables and pots with all sorts of salads. After the meal we get sweets and Easter eggs. We listen to all the results and the winners are presented with ribbons. Rita and Anne get tee shirts. Val B. Gorman the Special Olympics Nurse gives Anne and Rita a present to remind us of our trip. We leave for bed at 9.30pm, as we are really tired.
Sunday, April 04, 2004
7:00am – We wake and head for Lodge 3 to have breakfast. We eat cereal, toast and tea. After loading our luggage on the Variety Club of New Zealand Sunshine Minibus we head for the golf course. Rita is playing 18 holes with three other Special Olympics athletes. Anne will walk the course. We set off at 9.30am and the team get settled into the game after a nervous start. The fairways are very long and challenging. Rita manages two par shots. The first nine holes go well. The second half of the game is slow and when we get to the 13th we have to abandon, as it is lunchtime and people have a long way to travel home. We go back to the golf club and have lunch. After lunch there are more prizes. Rita gets best long putt. There is a random draw for prizes and Anne’s name comes out. She wins a plastic water bottle but exchanges it for a pen, the young man is delighted. After saying our goodbyes we set off the Auckland at 1.30pm, a long journey as there is a lot of traffic.
7:00pm – We arrive back at Sky City and eat sandwiches and tea, as we are too tired to go out. Rita’s face is a bit sunburnt but hopefully she’ll be okay in the morning. We chill for the evening and watch T.V.
Monday, April 05, 2004
9:00am – Rise but a good lie in. We go to Fortuna Restaurant for a leisurely breakfast. Head for town to buy some presents. Rita is very tired walking so we decide to return to hotel and sit in sun on the roof. We are going to Mass at 7.30pm in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We buy a new bag to fit extras. We send flowers to Sue in Wellington to thank her for all her kindness. We walk around the shops and buy a few presents. We go to the bank and change euro cheques to cover expenses in Hong Kong. We stop for coffee and then head back to hotel. It’s a lovely day so we go up to the roof of the hotel and sit in the sun, there’s a chilly wind so we have to take shelter. We go back to the room and Robin Sheffeld, Trustee of Special Olympics rings to invite us to dinner with his family. We will meet at 6.30pm. We relax, watch television and then meet Robin and Duncan, his Special Olympics athlete son. Duncan has won world medals for skiing. We go to a restaurant and enjoy a lovely evening. Winifred, Duncan’s mom presents Rita and Anne with presents. Rita gets a Maori lucky stone necklace; Anne gets a gold kiwi pin. We get a lovely thank you letter under our door from Sue, thanking us for the flowers and wishing us well on our journey home. We retire early 9.30pm.
Tuesday, April 06, 2004
7:00am – Rise to get ready to go home. We go for breakfast in the Fortuna Restaurant. We spend a while there and have a leisurely breakfast, it’s really good, a fabulous choice. We go back to the room and finish packing. Anne rings Carl to remind him about picking us up to go the airport. Carl arrives at 10:00am. When we arrive at the airport it’s already packed with people flying to Hong Kong on our flight. We get seats No.63F, G. The flight is on time, which is great. Anne purchases Montana wine, recommended by Carl. He says it’s twice the price or more in Ireland. When we get on the plane we are sitting beside twin babies one year, two months old. We feel sorry for the parents. They are returning to Hungary to visit family after spending two years in New Zealand. We get a shuttle bus to our hotel Kowloon Hotel and go straight to bed as it is 10:00pm Hong Kong time (2:00am New Zealand time).
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
7:00am – we wake and decide to go for breakfast and then go back to bed for an hour or two. The breakfast is brilliant, such a choice. We eat our fill and then go back to bed until 10:00am. We get up and organise our cases. We check out and leave our cases in the lobby. We walk the streets of Hong Kong and buy some little presents. We have tea in McDonalds. On the way back to the hotel we buy sandwiches and coke. The heat is almost unbearable, it’s hard to breathe, the atmosphere is very sticky. When we get back to the hotel we go into the bar area. Rita has a cup of tea and Anne has a glass of wine. We are not allowed to eat our sandwiches but Anne is very bold and eats hers, Rita will not break the rules.
5.20pm – We catch the airport shuttle bus and Rita eats her sandwich on the bus. At the airport Ann buys biscuits for her friends. We eat Burger King chips and tea, as we will have dinner on the aeroplane.
11.55pm – We board plane on time and start our homeward journey. We get a window seat but there are three seats so Rita and Ann are inside and a man is on the end. The captain explains that the weather is fine en route, after initial turbulence. It is very bumpy at the beginning of the flight but soon settles down and is very pleasant. We sleep nearly all the way. We arrive in London at 5.10am and make our way to Terminal 1 but we can’t check in until two hours before flight. We are told we have to pay £12 sterling for golf clubs. Anne goes to Aer Lingus desk and they waiver charge. We go to get coffee and wait for two hours to check in luggage. Anne rings home to tell time of flight arrival.
Rita says of her trip……”I had a fabulous time. I enjoyed playing golf with Carl. He was good fun and it was a fun game. I had to use one club. First, I was told there were five on the team, myself, Angus, Anna, Carl and Daniel. We scored 132 and received a mug, paper clip and sweets. In the evening we had a lovely dinner. I went dancing with Angus and he was good craic! It finished at 11 o’clock. I went to bed. Got up at 8.30am. Showered first, packed and went for breakfast. We went for a walk by the lake, said goodbye to Anna and Angus, they were going back to Wellington. We headed for Lake Taupo to play golf again. I would like to thank the Ireland New Zealand fund and Special Olympics for making this trip possible. I have wonderful memories.”