Lough Erne Golf Challenge: Brolly good show by stars McIlroy, Clarke and Harrington
“Severe weather warning in place”. Not exactly what anyone wants to hear on Radio Ulster on their way to a golf course as exposed to the elements as the Lough Erne Resort.
But it was always going to take more than a drop of rain to keep the paying public away from Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke as they took on Padraig Harrington and Shane Lowry with the honour of Northern Ireland at stake.
The crowds were significantly down on last year's inaugural event when McIlroy beat Harrington in a singles affair. But Joey McPartland, from Dromore in Co Down, was determined to enjoy her day out. “We won tickets to come in a competition in the local paper,” she said. “But we had already bought tickets because we wanted to see Rory and Darren playing.”
Clarke's girlfriend Alison Campbell dutifully tramped round all 18 holes in support. “It's not great when it's like this, but it's lovely to be able to come out and support Darren and Rory, although they don't seem to need it,” the former Miss Northern Ireland said.
Clarke's mother Hettie was more worried that her son played all 18 holes, despite the wintry conditions, with nothing more than a sun visor for protection.
Yesterday was former Northern Ireland, Arsenal and Spurs goalkeeping great Pat Jennings' first time at the resort.
“It's just magnificent, he said. “It reminds me very much of Loch Lomond, a place I love. I haven't had the chance to get playing here yet, but after walking around and seeing it today I'll be making sure I get a round in soon.”
Not everyone who stayed to the bitter end was so enthralled. Seven-year-old Damian Quinn looked about ready to call it a day as the match reached the 15th, despite the McDonald’s he'd been promised by his dad for coming.
“We actually live down there,” said Damian snr, pointing to a house right by the 15th tee-box. “We moved here a few months ago and we've already found plenty of golf balls in the back garden. This is such a beautiful course, it's lovely to be in this part of the country — apart from the weather, that is.”
The Faldo Championship Course at Lough Erne Resort (7,167 yards, Par 72) was designed by six-time Major winner Nick Faldo and is his first golf course design in Ireland.
It is part of a 10-year, £30m development which opened in 2009, and was the brainchild of supermarket tycoon Jim Treacy.
The Faldo course is considered one of the top 100 in the world by many golf experts. It provides golfers with superb year-round playing conditions as well as breathtaking views of The Fermanagh Lakelands.