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The Father & Daughter World Invitational is Undefeated

Tucked into the Southwestern pocket of Ireland, golf is used to forge friendships between fathers and their daughters
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The story goes, a man brought his daughter to play in a golf tournament in Ireland. She was new to the game, and after a brief session at the driving range, flanked by the water and the lush countryside, past statues of legends like Payne Stewart, they made their way to the first tee. Their caddie looked at the young woman and asked, “What’s your handicap?”

To which she replied: “I’m not impaired at all. I’m fully able.”

There are countless events in golf. There are big ones and little ones. Some are nearby, others are far away. Some compensate the winners with checks, trophies or jackets, others are for charity, side bets or bragging rights. Some have been around for over 150 years, others are still in the works. Some are big, loud, stuffy, stinky and unsettling. Others can be small, sweet and discreet.

And then there’s Carr Golf’s annual Father & Daughter in Waterville, Ireland, which puts the focus on that complex, caring, loving and layered relationship between fathers and their daughters.

The venues are Dooks Golf Club and Waterville Golf Links, two of the best in Ireland, and many would argue, the world. The game of golf is the excuse and opportunity to get together and, as co-founder Jimmy Layden likes to say: “For daughters to see their fathers in their natural habitat.” And that works both ways. Which, in essence, is why it lends itself to so many special moments and memories.

“The first Father & Daughter, dad looked at me and said, ‘I think we just became good friends,’” says Sohpie Carr, the daughter of Roddy Carr, who’s the brother of Marty Carr, the other co-founder of the tournament.

Fathers and daughters becoming good friends is a common theme throughout the 15 years of this event.

It was Marty and his father, Joe Carr, the great Irish Amateur, who founded the Father & Son Tournament in 1989, which is on its 35th year.

Joe Carr, the former captain of the R&A and World Golf Hall of Famer, died in 2004. Marty Carr has no sons and two daughters, and his best friend, Jimmy Layden, has no sons and three daughters. Which is why Layden called Carr in 2008 and said, “We’ve got to do this.”

And they’ve been doing it ever since.

Layden admits there were some lean years. “It has always been a labor of love,” says Layden. “I was shameless at times inviting people. Airports. Restaurants. Anywhere there was a dad with a daughter, he was in trouble.”

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The first few years, the tournament lost money. But as Layden says, Carr never wavered.

“We used to really try and beg people to bring their daughters,” says Carr. “But perseverance seems to have paid off.”

It has gone from nine teams in year one, in which the Carrs accounted for two teams and the Laydens were two teams, to 2023, in which there were 40 teams from five countries. With spots still available for 2024 (July 15—19).

“The Father & Daughter is the coming together of dads and daughters in the most beautiful place in the world,” says Layden. “It’s a chance to play golf, share stories and get closer.”

It’s that simple. But it’s important to know that there are good golfers who play in the Father & Daughter, and that’s true of both fathers and daughters. And then there are some fathers and daughters who are new to the game, they are casual golfers at best, but they see the value of the event beyond sweet swings or low scores. They see this as an opportunity to get away from the pressures and chaos of personal and professional life and get some quality time to reconnect, catch up and cultivate the camaraderie that happens when golf naturally exposes each person’s vulnerability and humility.

“You go through it together,” says Mary Layden. “You lift each other up, you cheer each other on, you commiserate over the bad shots. It’s a chance for a father and daughter to be on the same team and walk through that journey of 18 holes together, which is really cool.”

On the course, in the pub and around the piano, during a quick dip in the Atlantic Ocean and all the way to the gala dinner, veteran daughters take it upon themselves to welcome in and mentor the rookies. Meanwhile, the fathers network and make friends with each other and with other daughters.

By the end of the four days, a practice round and three competitive rounds, emotions run high as people begin saying goodbye.

“Literally, you don’t want it to end,” says Carr. “There’s hugging and high-fiving, there’s despair and torture, and yet, it doesn’t matter. You’re just happy to be there. It’s magical. It’s the best week of the year. Nothing compares.”

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On the final night of the 2023 tournament, in a crowded room of competitors, with golden streaks of a setting sun making their way across the Irish greenery and through the windows of the restaurant, Layden had the mic. He reminded the group of why he started the tournament and why it all matters to him. He reiterated the importance of “girl power,” he celebrated “the sorority of golf,” and he said he was proud of “the friendships that have been made over the years.”

As he should be.

Click here to learn more about the Father & Daughter World Invitational.