Subscribe to RSS feed for NewsNews field reporter Beau Estes (left) and multimedia producer Jeremy Friedman (right), share a pint with the now-legendary Fraser Gemmell. (Photo: T.J. Auclair) field reporter Beau Estes (left) and multimedia producer Jeremy Friedman (right), share a pint with the now-legendary Fraser Gemmell. (Photo: T.J. Auclair)

Diary: Those really were bats in the belfry

Print News Coordinating Producer Mark Spoor had never seen a real, live bat before -- until Thursday night at the Letham Grange Golf Club clubhouse. That's when club general manager Fraser Gemmell lived up to all the hype.

By Mark Spoor, Coordinating Producer

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- As you go through life, you begin to realize that very few things live up to the hype.

My new friend Fraser is not one of them.

First, a bit of background: Early in the week, our field reporter Beau Estes and multimedia producer Jeremy Friedman would head to Letham Grange Golf Club's clubhouse. Part of the course is literally in our backyard, so they would head over just to check things out.

They would return to the house and tell us these stories about Fraser -- who is Fraser Gemmell, the general manager of the course -- telling us that this guy had to be seen to be believed. Funny beyond belief and nicer than anyone you'd ever want to meet, they said.

Well, after finally meeting Fraser, who I think kind of looks like an older version of the late Sonny Bono -- except with a thick Scottish accent -- I couldn't agree more.

Here's just one example of what I'm talking about: Asked to describe himself as a golfer, Fraser, who stands all of about 5 feet, 6 inches, smiles a sly grin and says with a wink, "I'm a 13 (handicap), but I make a lot of money."

Anyway, I knew that Fraser had let us borrow a couple of clubs to do some practicing in our backyard, since none of us brought clubs. Still, to be truthful, I thought maybe it was the Guinness talking.

It wasn't. Last night, we saw the guy save a bat. Not the ones used by baseball players, mind you, but the flying rodents that strike fear into just about everyone.

I am not making this up.

There was a baby bat (have you ever seen a baby bat?) on the floor of the clubhouse. Fraser, who as writer T.J. Auclair says, "was pro-life," scooped our bat friend in a napkin and set it loose just outside the clubhouse.

We took a look outside a couple of minutes later to find maybe a half-dozen bats scurrying away from the upper reaches of the clubhouse.

Literally bats in the belfry.

Even more than his bat skills, I was amazed by Fraser's genuine love of people. Other than Beau and Jeremy, Fraser hadn't known the other four of us for more than a couple of minutes, but really went out of his way to make us feel very much at home. I won't soon forget him.

Nor will I forget my other new friends, Stuart, Andrew and Simon, who were sitting at the bar while we were hanging out with Fraser.

Try to picture three English blokes hanging around a pub and you've pretty much got the picture when it comes to these guys -- gregarious, outgoing and with a fierce wit.

The thought I keep having is how all we seem to hear lately is how much the rest of the world hates Americans. These guys love Americans. What's more, let me just tell you that you haven't lived until you've heard a slightly tipsy Englishman do his impression of an American accent.

"Give me a burger with bacon," Andrew said, sounding a little like a cross between Mr. Rogers and Jeff Spicolli.

Simon looks a little like he just stepped off the stage with Billy Idol, while Andrew and Stuart look like they just stepped off a J.Crew catalog. We talked about American television (Friends is apparently huge in the U.K.) and American movies (they both can recite lines from "Top Gun" verbatim. When I asked Andrew if he had "a need for speed," he high-fived me like I had just won the World Cup for England).

Good times, indeed.

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