Tee ladies sing their support for Euro cup bid
THE dawn chorus rang out loud and proud over the pristine golf course as the early rising fans sang their morning hymns of praise to the European Solheim Cup team yesterday.
Female company executives, students, nurses, accountants, and stay-at-home wives shed all semblance of their "normal' identity and merged into a passionate, tuneful and vocal body at Killeen Castle to support Europe. They were dubbed 'Ali's Barmy Army', in recognition of team captain Allison Nicholas.
Shamelessly, they adapted the words of songs by Abba, the Beatles and old favourites such as 'It's a long way to Tipperary' to chorus their support at Dunsany near Dunshaughlin in Co Meath against the USA.
American fans in the stand did their best to match the Europeans, mainly with their chants of "USA, USA", but the home followers were in the majority and came prepared with their song sheets.
At 7.35am, the excitement rose to a crescendo when the first American players, Michelle Wie and Cristie Kerr, stepped on to the tee.
They were followed by Europe's opening foursomes pairing -- Maria Hjorth and Anna Nordqvist from Sweden -- to predictable roars of home support and more songs.
After a bout of first-tee nerves on the part of the announcer who got the order of play wrong -- the visiting team always tees off first -- Cristie Kerr of the USA played the opening shot of the 12th Solheim Cup.
The format yesterday was four morning foursomes -- alternate shot play -- and fourball, better-ball, in the afternoon.
By 8.30am when the first eight players were on the course, attendance numbers were small and it looked as if the organisers had over-estimated the interest of the public.
But steadily the numbers grew to the extent that more than 17,000 spectators, a large proportion of them men, had arrived to watch the action by the afternoon.
Overseas interest was strong, with more than 7,000 visitors from the USA and Europe expected to attend over the three days of the event.
One of the big off-course attractions was the merchandising tent.
The most expensive individual item on sale is a limited-edition, hand-crafted piece of Tipperary Crystal with Killeen Castle etched into it which costs €999.
Only 10 of these exclusive pieces, each of which takes a craftsman eight weeks to manufacture, are on sale.
The cheapest product, a Solheim Cup limited-edition lapel badge, costs a mere €2.
David Woodward of DAB International, which has the merchandising franchise, said: "We're trying to offer items at an affordable level; there's polo shirts in here from €35, there are jackets from €50-€60."
Today children and teens under-18 accompanied by an adult go free. An adult day ticket costs €50 and can be paid at the gate.