At around 5.30am on Sunday morning, Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend will tee off at the first of 21 golf courses as part of an epic fund-raising initiative for former teammate Doddie Weir.
Most players and coaches will spend their last few hours relaxing with their family before flying to Japan for the World Cup. Townsend on the other hand has set himself the physical and logistical challenge of playing one hole at all 21 golf courses in the Scottish Borders to raise money for the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation.
Townsend has known Weir since they played opposite each other in the derby for Gala and Melrose. They went on to appear 35 times together for Scotland as well as being part of the British & Irish Lions squad that toured South Africa in 1997, forging a close friendship. Since Weir was diagnosed with motor-neurone disease in 2017, Townsend has contributed both time and money to several fund-raising initiatives for the foundation, but wanted to find something that he could do that was both demanding and meaningful.
“I have been thinking for some time about trying to do something to raise funds and awareness for what Doddie is doing, which is so inspirational,” Townsend said. “There’s a close link between golf and rugby, obviously the Borders is the area we are both from and it was just about manageable. I spoke to a few people about the idea before I presented it to Doddie and the foundation. Doddie has signed up to attend the whole day. There are two problems with that, the first was that it was going to tire him out and the second is that we have a maximum of 22 minutes per golf course. I have never known Doddie to chat to anyone for less than 22 minutes!
“What Doddie has gone through I can only imagine how tough it must have been, but he has never shown any negativity. The amount of money and awareness he has raised for MND is simply amazing. The events I have been lucky enough to attend from London to Hong Kong and Kelso have all been so special and just show how Doddie has touched so many people’s lives.”
In November 2017, Townsend also invited Weir into the Scotland camp before they played New Zealand during which he presented the match ball at Murrayfield alongside his sons. The Scottish Rugby Union has also organised the Doddie Weir Cup match against Wales.
“Gregor has been an amazing supporter throughout,” Weir said. “I think the fact we are where we are has a lot to do with Gregor and the Scottish Rugby Union, who have just been amazing supporters. For Gregor to do something like this the day before he goes to the World Cup is a real mark of the man.”