Saturday 22 July 2017

Rory has Pep in his step as Man City boss among the stars at Irish Open

At the Pro-Am at the Irish Open at Portstewart, Co Derry, yesterday were Rory McIlroy with Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola Photo: Sportsfile
At the Pro-Am at the Irish Open at Portstewart, Co Derry, yesterday were Rory McIlroy with Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola Photo: Sportsfile

Alan O'Keeffe

Film stars and sporting legends were cheered loudly at the Irish Open Pro-Am golf tournament - but loudest of all was the 'Rory Roar'.

Local hero Rory McIlroy had the crowds hitting high decibel levels as he sent the ball down the fairway at near supersonic speeds at Portstewart Golf Club yesterday.

At the Pro-Am at the Irish Open at Portstewart, Co Derry, yesterday was actor Jamie Dornan Photo: PA
At the Pro-Am at the Irish Open at Portstewart, Co Derry, yesterday was actor Jamie Dornan Photo: PA

The pro-am curtain-raiser to the Irish Open, which begins today at the Co Derry links course, pulled in some big-name celebrities.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and racing legend AP McCoy mixed with screen actors Jamie Dornan, Aidan Quinn and James Nesbitt in the relaxed one-day event.

Pledge

Much of the proceeds of the event will go to McIlroy's charity, The Rory Foundation, which helps ill and vulnerable children.

At the Pro-Am at the Irish Open at Portstewart, Co Derry, yesterday was former Taoiseach Enda Kenny Photo: Sportsfile
At the Pro-Am at the Irish Open at Portstewart, Co Derry, yesterday was former Taoiseach Enda Kenny Photo: Sportsfile

McIlroy repeated his pledge to journalists that if he successfully defends his Irish Open title later this week, he will donate the first prize of €1m to the foundation.

Hollywood star Aidan Quinn admitted to feeling nervous as he prepared to tee off. He said: "The last time I played, I was behind Bill Murray and his brother and I watched them, on successive holes, hit spectators. So, if I can get through the round without hitting or injuring any spectators I'll be doing well."

Jamie Dornan, star of the racy 'Fifty Shades of Grey' movies, signed an autograph at the first tee for golf-mad schoolboy Ben Johnston from nearby Portrush, who uses a wheelchair since undergoing cancer treatment.

'Cold Feet' star James Nesbitt, who teamed up with Dornan, admitted to feeling "very tense" having to tee-off in front of the large crowd. As he stepped up to hit the ball and the marshals held up their 'Quiet' batons, a fan quipped: "Go on Jimmy, no cold feet."

At the Pro-Am at the Irish Open at Portstewart, Co Derry, yesterday was former Manchester United goalkeeper Harry Gregg Photo: Sportsfile
At the Pro-Am at the Irish Open at Portstewart, Co Derry, yesterday was former Manchester United goalkeeper Harry Gregg Photo: Sportsfile

Other local heroes to grace the greens were snooker champion Dennis Taylor and ex-Nothern Ireland soccer international Pat Jennings (72).

Away from all the celebrity excitement, former Taoiseach Enda Kenny got on with the job of tackling the 18 holes with golf professional Thongchai Jaidee and teammates John Fitzpatrick and Tom Hayes.

But there was no doubting that it was McIlroy who garnered the most adulation.

His playing partners were Guardiola, McCoy and businessmen JP McManus and Dermot Desmond.

At the Pro-Am at the Irish Open at Portstewart, Co Derry, yesterday were Aidan Quinn with former Northern Ireland goalkeeper Pat Jennings. Photo: Colin O’Riordan
At the Pro-Am at the Irish Open at Portstewart, Co Derry, yesterday were Aidan Quinn with former Northern Ireland goalkeeper Pat Jennings. Photo: Colin O’Riordan

Bothered

McIlroy was asked at the morning press conference if he was bothered he had fallen from world number one to number four.

He shot back with a Beatles reference, quipping "Back to Ringo?"

McIlroy said his game felt "in good shape" and he was looking forward to defending his Irish Open title. "I felt like I used the crowd support in the right way, rather than it being a negative where you felt pressure," he said.

"I don't want to talk myself up too much, but my game is feeling good," he added.

Irish Independent

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