Relief as airline finds star's custom clubs in the nick of time
THE tigers prowling Fota Wildlife Park were put in the shade by the big beasts roaming the fairways just up the road as the Pro-Am opened the 2014 Irish Open.
There were few more powerful pairings in the glorious sunshine than two-time Major winner Rory McIlroy and Irish investor and stock market guru, Dermot Desmond.
McIlroy, having just declared for Ireland in the Olympic Games, was also freshly reunited with his specially-made Nike golf clubs which had gone AWOL as he flew with United Airlines from the US.
As if to underline his allegiance, the golfer sported a luminous green Nike shirt as a crowd of over 700 fans gathered to watch him tee-off.
He was cheered at virtually every hole as word spread about his Irish declaration.
He paid tribute to the efforts of airline and baggage handling officials to sort out the clubs problem – but he didn't get them back in time to get in a training round at the Old Head course outside Kinsale, Co Cork.
"The clubs arrived this morning. (Wednesday)
They got in at 7am and I got them couriered down here straight away," he said. "I spent the day (Tuesday) at the Old Head but I couldn't play without my clubs."
Mr Desmond, who is also a majority stakeholder in Celtic, said it was "absol-utely fantastic" to be joined at Fota by one of the finest golfers around.
McIlroy played alongside his father Gerry, Mr Desmond and Mr Desmond's friend, Albert Sharpe.
"I have played with Rory before – he is a charming individual, but besides that he is one of the greatest golfers of all time, not just presently in the world but of all time," Mr Desmond said.
Other players and celebrities out on the course included Irish Open winner, Shane Lowry; Clare hurling boss, Davy Fitzgerald; Cork All-Star Anthony Nash, and Ipswich and Ireland footballer Stephen Hunt.