Portrush is the place to be for the party of the year
22:28 GMT, 25 June 2012
What event do you look forward to the most Alongside ‘What’s Tiger Woods really like’ – a closed book I haven’t got near to opening – and ‘Can I fit in your suitcase’ – trust me, you don’t want to go in there – that might be the most frequent question I get asked.
No need to dance around the houses this year and wonder whether to plump for the Masters, The Open, or a number of other 72-hole goodies.
No 1, by a Frankel-like margin, is this week’s momentous Irish Open at Royal Portrush. Praise to the Stormont politicians for stumping up the funds and giving Rory, Darren and G-Mac the homecoming their major championship exploits deserved.
Let the party commence: Portrush hosts the Irish Open
This will be the first time the event has been staged in the province since 1953 and what an occasion it promises to be. For the first time in European Tour history the sold-out notices have been posted. So many tickets were purchased in advance, they didn’t want to risk being mobbed at the weekend by people turning up at the gate.
As it is, more than 100,000 spectators will flock to one of the world’s great courses and no prizes for guessing who most of them will be watching. Welcome to Northern Ireland’s very own Big Three.
As if the air of celebration was not thick enough, local resident Alan Dunbar returned home from Royal Troon on Saturday with the Amateur Championship. Portrush member Stephanie Meadow sank the winning putt at the recent Curtis Cup. How about another Northern Irishman, Michael Hoey, who can’t get a look in but just happens to have won three times on the European Tour in little more than a year No wonder they say success breeds success.
One day, they hope The Open itself will return to these parts for the first time since 1951. Officials from the Royal and Ancient Golf Club will be in town this week and not because their two biggest trophies are in residence. If the event goes well, who knows what might happen ‘Can’t wait for Portrush,’ tweeted Rory McIlroy at the weekend. Neither can I.
It is going to be totally manic. And utterly marvellous.
The big three: McIlroy, McDowell and Clarke all return to play
Quote of the week
‘I’ve got this wrong. I’ve done something bad. I wish it hadn’t happened.’
Jose Manuel Lara’s hapless caddie Mathias Vinson was certainly right on all three counts. But what possessed the Argentine to think he could cover up the mistake of having one club too many in Lara’s bag last week by getting rid of it in a bush, for heaven’s sake Unlike the club, it is safe to assume Vinson will now disappear.
Willett has found his calling
While enjoying immensely the achievements of all these top English golfers in their thirties, there have been some nervous looks in the rear-view mirror wondering who will follow in their footsteps.
That’s one reason the victory of 24-year-old Danny Willett in the BMW International in Germany on Sunday was so welcome. Maybe you would expect the son of a preacher to have a good Christian work ethic, but when combined with God-given talent, it was hardly surprising to see his peers lining up on Twitter to predict this victory as the first of many.
Man of the hour: Willett (in bunker) celebrates his win in Germany
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What I liked about his play-off success,
however, was the way he played all four sudden-death holes with a smile
on his face. Even when he missed a five-foot putt to win, or a mid-iron
that was all over the flag, flew 20 yards too far and finished in the
rough at the back of the green.
Not only talent and dedication, now he’s got the temperament as well. I hope his father won’t think it too irreverent to suggest his son has found his calling.
An incredible show of bravery
Headmistress Dr Helen Wright made lots of headlines last week for holding up American television star Kim Kardashian as a symbol of everything that’s wrong with society.
How about Melissa Reid as a humbling example of everything that remains right Brave is never a word to be used lightly in a sporting context, but no other word will suffice when talking about Reid’s victory in Prague on Sunday.
A month ago, the 24-year-old from Derby was preparing to play in a tournament in Germany when her mother Joy, in town to watch her daughter compete, was killed in a car accident.
In this, her first tournament back, Melissa holed a six-foot putt to win, before being embraced by friends and fellow competitors. ‘It means a lot because it’s good news for the family and will put a smile on our faces at such a horrible time,’ she said afterwards.
Yes, we could spend our time tut-tutting. But wouldn’t the teaching profession be better employed lauding women like Reid and her admirable illustration of the resilience of the human spirit