Scaling The Heights And Meeting Rory And Sergio

This year, Sean Gunn has temporarily left his operations job at Castle Stuart Golf Links to take up an internship at the renowned Emirates Golf Club in Dubai as part of his career development.

Sean Gunn in Dubai with Rory McIlroy

In his third blog on his new role, he describes a busy January which saw him team up with both Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia.


I will remember January 2018 for a long time as the busiest, most enjoyable and most surreal time of my life.

It began by celebrating New Year on Kite Beach in Dubai overlooking the Burj Al Arab (the third tallest hotel in the world), where I witnessed the best fireworks display I’ve ever seen and one that will be very hard to beat.

There wasn’t too much celebrating, as I was back to work the very next day, preparing for the first tournament of the year, a members’ scramble. It gave me another opportunity to trial the Golf Genius software which I’m helping to introduce to both courses at the Emirates and Dubai Creek. When I return home, it’s something the members can use to organise events for themselves so it’s been a rewarding experience to put this in place.

A few days off allowed me to explore more of Dubai and do something that was one of the main things I wanted to do here, to see the Burj Khalifa skyscraper and the fountain show. I see the Burj every day, as it can be seen from up to 90km away, but seeing it close up, it is hard to describe its sheer size. A few days later, I got inside the tallest building in the world, riding to the viewing platform on the 124th and 125th floors (there are still another 38 floors after this!) in just 90 seconds, travelling at around 10m per second.

It’s such a cool way to start the experience as in the elevator you see how fast we were travelling and the height of other famous buildings we were passing on the way.

The night after visiting the Burj Khalifa, I received a call from my colleague Cian asking me to come into work early the next morning to caddy. During the call I learned we would be caddying for Rory McIlroy and his caddy, Harry Diamond, not something I could turn down.

So at 6am the next day. we met Rory and Harry. With Cian carrying Rory’s bag and me on Harry’s, we teed off in darkness and began probably the most surreal experience I’ve ever had, getting to walk the course with one of the best golfers in the world. Getting to hear his stories from the tour, majors etc is something I don't think I will be forgetting for some time.

After our early morning round, we were asked to join them for breakfast - the ‘pinch me’ morning continued! It was a great experience and, needless to say, I did my duties in promoting Castle Stuart, inviting Rory to visit any time for a game - so we’ll see!

Rory’s presence meant that the European Tour had arrived into town for the 2018 Desert Classic. This is something I had been looking forward to since I knew I would be coming Dubai. Having been involved in the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart, I was very keen to learn how the European Tour operates in other tournaments.

It did not disappoint. It was great to soak up the atmosphere on the Monday and Tuesday practice days, as some of Europe's greatest players arrived and then sat directly opposite my desk in the clubhouse. My week kicked off properly on Tuesday night at a Zurich event with their new ambassador, Sergio Garcia, on the floodlit Faldo course. It was here that I learnt that I would have the opportunity to be on Sergio’s bag for the short 3 holes that he was to play during his clinic. The dream was continuing. Growing up, Sergio was my golfing idol, so to get the chance to see him playing a few holes was brilliant for me, but to be able to be on the bag was just immense.

The next day was Pro-Am day and during the build up there was a competition being run to play a round with both Rory McIlroy and Niall Horan. I caddied for the eventual winner, Saoirse Lambe, who won the competition out of an amazing 29,000 entrants. Again, another odd feeling as it was an opportunity to be inside the ropes during the event. Although it was the Pro-Am, the crowds were still impressive, but when you have Rory and Niall playing together it was always going to attract big numbers. I just wished I could have been the one playing, as the course was in pristine condition.

When the tournament started I was given another cool job. I was asked to help

Paige Spiranac, who became the first ever female starter for a professional golf tournament. My duties included making sure each group went on to the course on time, and that all the information the players needed - scorecards, stat cards, pin placements etc - was all on hand. It was another opportunity to meet some of the pros, as again I was based inside the ropes, but it also allowed me to feel part of the event, albeit in a small way.

The Monday after the Desert Classic, and a dramatic win for Haotong Li over Rory McIlroy, it was back to business, with the course being open and a morning shotgun start on the Majlis for the main sponsor of the Desert Classic. As our Faldo course was closed during the DDC there were a lot of people hungry to get back playing.

The following Thursday was one of the more popular events of the season here at Emirates, Midnight Madness. Having a floodlit course means being able to play golf right through the night, and once a season we host a tournament which does just that. We had 27 teams playing a scramble format and I was asked to help out with this event as we were using Golf Genius to run it.

It was another odd experience. While almost everyone else had gone home, a small group of colleagues worked through the night to run the event. At first light, and just awake, players began coming in from the course. It was amusing to compare how everyone was fresh and ready to play pre-round, to watching them at breakfast the next morning, trying to keep their eyes open after the night of golf.

Prior to the event, I would never have thought I would work a night shift in the golf industry, but yet it has now happened. One more unreal experience in Dubai.

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