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FIRE PIT COLLECTIVE

An inside look at the Manning Brothers' buddies trip

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in Fire Pit Collective, a Golf Digest content partner.

August 02, 2022

I was just back from covering the Open Championship at St. Andrews when I saw that Jim Nantz was calling. I took a second before answering. It felt like high school, intentionally pausing so as to not appear too desperate or excited.

“Jim Nantz?” I asked.

“Hello, friend.”

We laughed. And then we got to the reason for his call.

“I have something for you,” he said. “The Manning brothers, Eric Church, Taylor Zarzour and some of their friends have just returned from an ultimate buddies trip to Scotland and Northern Ireland, and it was something special. I wondered if you’d be interested in telling their story?”

In! Obviously.

Eli, Peyton and Cooper Manning.

Well, 14 interviews and almost eight hours of recordings later, we’ve assembled a two-part podcast that reflects on an all-time buddies trip around the 150th playing of the Open Championship, at St. Andrews. Course reviews and insider info are packed into these podcasts, but there are also delightful diversions, including a man named Church breaking into a cemetery and becoming inspired to write an original song: “Ain’t the Only Ghost in Town.” An Open champion uses a Tennent’s tall-boy can as a tee. We get served the details of a “proper” lunch and the skinny on a new drinking game that’s sweeping the country. A variety of formats are played while a variety of spirits are imbibed, including one that Cooper Manning says might make you forget your middle name. A deep camaraderie permeates the group.

You’ll hear from Peyton Manning, who helped with logistics; Eli Manning, the wine guy; and Cooper Manning, the comedian, on how and why this trip was so special. Church, the country-music sensation, didn’t pick up a guitar while he was in the U.K., but at the end of the second podcast he was kind enough to share the song he was inspired to write while jet-lagged at the Slieve Donard Resort in Northern Ireland. There’s also Zarzour, Sirius XM voice who, when he wasn’t playing golf, was calling the action at the Open.

“To a degree, it was a bit of a bummer that the last nine holes didn’t go the way everybody thought that they would,” Zarzour says, “but to see Cam Smith play that well and go out and win the Claret Jug like that was still very enjoyable.”

We also hear from Nantz; Tiger Woods’s caddie, Joe LaCava; and many others. The trip included Ben Weprin and Eric Hassberger of AJ Capital, who, along with Cooper Manning and a long list of their friends, bought and resurrected the Rusacks Hotel, which overlooks the 18th green of the Home of Golf.

“For this old soul,” Nantz says, “who is into these connections with the past and bringing it all together, to have buddies on the ultimate buddy trip allow you to experience it vicariously, by connecting me live via Facetime worlds apart, to have me there live and in person, is a very nice gift. A gift of friendship. Golf does that to you.”

Well said. And this audio romp from the Old Course to Royal County Down is now a gift to us all. Enjoy.