Monday 19 August 2019

Open door slammed shut as home boy Rory's hopes disappear

But on the plus side there's Shane Lowry

A day to forget: Rory at the 17th. Photos: Ramsey Cardey/Gerry Mooney
A day to forget: Rory at the 17th. Photos: Ramsey Cardey/Gerry Mooney
A day to forget: Rory McIlroy hunts for his ball on the first hole at Portrush. Photos: Ramsey Cardey/Gerry Mooney
Hooked: Golf fans Deirdre Foley and Shane Doherty from Carndonagh, Co Donegal, at the Royal Portrush golf course. Photo: Gerry Mooney
US fans Carter Briggs, Mike Huffman, Michael O’Connor and Mike Huffman Jnr. Photos: Ramsey Cardey/Gerry Mooney

Nicola Anderson in Portrush

Yes, it may have rained quite a bit. And Rory McIlroy may have lashed a golf ball in the direction of the mobile phone of Anna McHelvey from Bangor in his opening tee shot, disastrously. It cracked the screen and shattered his hopes of Open glory in the process.

But, on the plus side, Shane Lowry was absolutely flying - overtaken on the leaderboard only at the end of the day by America's JB Holmes.

And there was always the chance of catching a glimpse of Tiger Woods.

So for anyone who had travelled to Portrush for the experience of sheltering under the dunes and taking in the bracing salt of the wind, it was well worth the time and money.

For Martin Gallagher and daughter Kerri, from Milltown, Co Galway, The Open was a nice excuse to meet up with their cousins Mike and Conor O'Rourke, from Warrington in the UK.

Mike had been to a couple of The Open events before but believed this was the best.

"It was worth every penny," declared Martin.

They were only sorry they hadn't managed to secure tickets for the rest of the week.

"I have the feeling this is building up into something special," said Mike, regretfully.

Four friends from Michigan and Alabama in the US saw it as a reason to break out their "Stars and Stripes" suits.

Carter Briggs, Michael O'Connor and Mike Huffman, along with his son Mike Jnr, admitted they thought it might help them "stand out and get on TV".

"And it worked," added Michael.

They'd spent a week touring Ireland, visiting Limerick, Galway and Sligo, ending up in Portrush. "We've had some good weather - four seasons in one day," laughed Carter.

Deirdre Foley and Shane Doherty, both from Carndonagh, Co Donegal, said they'd both become hooked on golf when the Irish Open came to Ballyliffin last year.

"It's great to see Shane Lowry doing well - but poor Rory McIlroy," said Deirdre.

They too were sorry they had managed to get tickets only for the first day, having booked them a year ago.

Another couple from Dublin agreed. "Shock, sympathy and support," they said was the reaction to McIlroy's disastrous opener, adding the crowd was initially horrified at what they were seeing but then quickly rallied round.

So while the golf was certainly eventful, it was far from the case for many businesses in the town.

Portrush is usually heaving at this time of the year because of the traditional Unionist holiday of the Twelfth fortnight.

But the golf has meant that the five car parks that are usually full of holidaymakers are now full of golf fans - with a park and ride facility direct to the course.

"This is our worst job ever," declared a man in a burger stall operating out of Carrickfergus, Co Antrim.

He had set up on Sunday expecting to be here for the week but things have gone so badly that he is now contemplating going home.

"They promised us there would be 200,000 people plus coming up this way," he said.

"But they're not letting anyone up this way. There is nobody down around this end of town. They're keeping everybody inside and charging them £8 or £9 for a burger," he said, adding that his own burgers cost "£3 or £3.50".

For a traditional sweet shop, in the town, selling delicacies like the popular Portrush rock, yellow man honeycomb and bags of Dulse seaweed for snacking on, it was more or less the same story.

"You wouldn't get into this shop usually," said the shopkeeper. "There'd be a queue out on to the street."

He said the town was usually "five times busier", but added: "We've lost the Twelfth."

But it's the same story at the famous St Andrew's course in Scotland, he claimed, adding: "If you ask any of the businesses there, they say the worst period is when the golf is on."

Over at the tent market erected for the event, Mary Forsythe, from Tully Farms in Portglenone, Co Antrim, said the event was "good", adding that it was not as busy as it is for other events around the North.

"The farmers' markets are great events," she explained.

Irish Independent

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