Solheim Cup a triumph in very difficult times
RYDER Cup 2006 at The K Club, Solheim Cup 2011 at Killeen Castle -- two of golf's biggest international team events played in Ireland in vastly different economic circumstances.
The common denominators were: (1) Europe won on both occasions, although the women's victory over the USA last Sunday was far more dramatic than the men in '06; (2) heavy rain affected the two events, but in each case, the course staff and officials coped admirably with the challenges and got play finished on the Sunday; (3) the fans were magnificent in '06 and last weekend.
Major differences? First, we had all the excitement in '06 of having an Irish interest with Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley on the team, plus, of course, the massive level of interest in men's golf.
And then there was the significant matter of the Celtic Tiger, still roaring away at full pelt five years ago.
All of which makes it more remarkable that the Solheim Cup proved to be such a crowd-puller on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Attendance figures of 28,000 for the final day were terrific, and for me, the heroes and heroines were those hardy souls who stayed all day and endured the awful deluge of rain and bad weather which caused stoppages lasting two hours and 20 minutes in total.
Soaked to the skin, they ignored the conditions and cheered and sang and applauded the golfers of Europe and USA right through to the nerve-jangling conclusion.
It says much for the underlying spirit of the Irish that they can rise to a big international occasion and enjoy the craic, despite the economic situation here and abroad.
Credit, too, to the visitors from Britain, Europe and the USA, who brought their support and some colourful costumes to the event.
What now for Killeen Castle? Well, first and foremost the course provided a platform which suitably challenged the LET and LPGA stars, with the last four holes justifying designer Jack Nicklaus' vision for a dramatic closing stretch.
Now that the course and venue have been presented to an international audience, its attraction for green fee visitors from home and abroad can only be enhanced.
Killeen Castle has good, professional and courteous staff, fine facilities and a commitment to high standards. The announcement that the Ladies Irish Open will be staged there next year was a statement of intent to be open for business for a long time to come. Interesting to note negotiations are ongoing for the men's Irish Open, with suggestions that a change of date from the August weekend back to June is likely.
If that transpires, wouldn't it make sense for the promoters of the Ladies Irish Open to look for that August bank holiday weekend and build on the good vibes of the Solheim?