PROFESSIONAL golf requires patience -- in bucket loads.
Young David Hurley, from Douglas in Cork, had waited for hours at the barrier behind the clubhouse at Killarney Golf and Fishing Club, waiting patiently to catch a glimpse of his hero Rory McIlroy.
"Can I have your autograph please?" the 12-year-old asked politely of anyone walking past who looked like they might have been a professional golfer.
His requests mainly fell on deaf ears, with only the odd golfer even glancing his way.
"I've collected three so far," said David. "But I'm not sure who they are."
The schoolboy might not have been too familiar with all the players taking part in yesterday's opening day of the Irish Open, but there were plenty of stars of the golfing world about.
US Open champion McIlroy and British Open winner Darren Clarke were joined by all the big names in Irish golf, including triple-major winner Padraig Harrington, former Irish Open champion Shane Lowry, 2002 Ryder Cup hero Paul McGinley and Colm Moriarty, who was the best of the Irish players on day one.
McIlroy had a disappointing opening day. Although he got off to a good start and was four under par after 10 holes, it all went horribly wrong on the 18th when he hit his tee shot into a bunker.
He tried to make up a lot of distance with his second shot but hiked the ball into the water and had to take a penalty shot.
"I am a bit disappointed but hopefully I'll do better tomorrow," he told the Irish Independent as he left Killarney Golf and Fishing Club yesterday.
The best performance of the day was by India's Jeev Milka Singh, who finished at eight under.
There were 18,300 visitors to the Killeen course yesterday, with attendances up on last year.
Presidential hopeful Gay Mitchell was on the campaign trail with his wife Norma. 'Apprentice' stars Bill Cullen and Jackie Lavin also enjoyed the day's golf, as did businessman JP McManus, whose wife Noreen was on the winning Pro-Am team on Wednesday.
Golf was the number-one sport in the Kingdom yesterday, but in one local hotel this is always the case. Killeen House is the only hotel in the world that accepts golf balls as legal tender.
Its owner Michael Rosney says he has collected over 8,000 golf balls from all over the world, accepted as payment for drinks, since he bought the hotel over 20 years ago.
"The exchange rate is a golf ball for a jar," Mr Rosney explained. "If a guest has a hole-in-one, we tear up their accommodation bill, give them a bottle of champagne and set off the fire alarm so all the other guests know what's happened."
Luckily for the hotelier, this is a rare enough occurrence. The feat has evaded all his guests this year, although he had to honour it on two occasions last year.
He might not have had a great day on the course, but Padraig Harrington took some time out to chat to fans and sign autographs, much to the delight of David Hurley and all the other youngsters who had waited patiently for signatures to fill their copybooks.
Patience pays off in the end, even in golf.
ALL THE GOLF ACTION IN SPORT