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NFL legend Dan Marino, and his son, Joey, are regulars at the World Invitational Father & Son Golf Tournament.
NFL legend Dan Marino, and his son, Joey, are regulars at the World Invitational Father & Son Golf Tournament. (Courtesy of the Carr Golf Group)

World Invitational Father & Son Tournament: A family affair at Waterville Golf Links in Co. Kerry, Ireland

Jason Scott DeeganBy Jason Scott Deegan,
Senior Staff Writer

There's nothing that can replicate the bond of a father and son playing golf together.

That bond rises to new heights at the World Invitational Father & Son Golf Tournament, held every year at Waterville Golf Links in County Kerry, Ireland. The event, run by the Carr Golf Group for more more than two decades, has become a family tradition for many fathers and sons.

Dan Robertson, of Connecticut, plans to attend the next invitation-only tournament Aug. 8-12, 2012, for the sixth consecutive year. He plans to keep playing "until I'm toes up."

"That's what makes it so special, the core group of guys going every year," Robertson said. "It's the banter you have, the camaraderie, the Carr group, the ring of Kerry. We take over the town. All the fathers and sons take over the town."

Marty Carr, the chief executive of the Carr Golf Group, calls it a "festival of golf."

"The weekend is a first-class affair with caddies and major goodie bags," Carr said. "The tournament includes a practice round and three tournament rounds, live nightly entertainment, a long-drive competition over a lake and a grand gala dinner with prizes after the four rounds."

The village of Waterville and the course, redesigned by Tom Fazio in 2006, add to the tournament's intimate feel. The U.K. edition of Golf World ranked Waterville No. 34 on its list of the world's 100 greatest courses.

Although golf at Waterville dates to 1889, the course lay dormant throughout the 1960s before Irish-born American John A. Mulcahy, Ireland's foremost links architect, Eddie Hackett, and Claude Harmon, a past Masters champion and head professional at Winged Foot Golf Club, collaborated to design a course fit to be ranked among the best. Waterville and its new clubhouse opened in 1973.

Today, despite its remoteness from Ireland's other trophy courses, it remains on the rotation of must-sees on the island. The links combines with Waterville House, an 18th-century, four-star hotel, to create one of the finest golf and fishing resorts in the world. PGA Tour pros Mark O'Meara, Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk and Payne Stewart (who has a statue on site) all have reveled in its marvelous dunes.

Celebrities add to the magic of the tournament

Carr said the tournament has attracted as many as 300 players, but it has been cut back to 80 teams and 160 players in recent years. Carr explained who gets invited this way: "If you know somebody (who has played in it). If you have humor or the love of golf or ... if you play out of a decent club, we are looking for numbers to fill the event. We are looking for characters or golfers to fill it out."

Celebrities regularly add to the aura of the tournament. NHL legend Wayne Gretzky, former Vice President Dan Quayle and NHL star Bobby Orr have played in the past. NFL legend Dan Marino is a regular participant with his son, Joey.

"The magic of the event is you get to play golf with your son," Carr said. "There's also the annoyance when the son comes in at 4 in the morning (from the bar). The sons go away for a couple years (as they grow up), then they come back (to play in the tournament). They come back as fathers. It is a magical thing."

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Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.

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