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Irish Open: Hopeful star-gazing all the rage as visitors from near and far drop in on Newcastle

John Porter discovers resort in the grip of Irish Open fever

Newcastle - it's a town of second glances as the world of golf stopped off for the week.

All eyes were peeled and on the lookout for the many rumoured global superstars who had supposedly flocked to the Co Down resort to watch world number one McIlroy and co strut their stuff on the immaculate fairways and greens of Royal County Down.

Rumours of ex-footballer David Beckham, TV duo Ant & Dec and even American President Barack Obama being in town for the spectacular were the talk of the town yesterday.

One fan was adamant he saw movie star - and golf fanatic - Samuel L Jackson among the many eager faces watching McIlroy suffer what was probably his worst ever round of professional golf.

Even if they were just rumours, that and the patchy weather could not detract from the high spirits of those around the town and those who had a coveted ticket for the event.

Golfing umbrellas, waterproofs, branded caps and collapsible chairs were the fashion along the town's Main Street.

John McGinn, whose family have owned the Donard Bar on the street for the past six decades, said the arrival of the European Tour was one of the most historic occasions Newcastle had witnessed. "It is certainly up there," said the publican. "The whole organisation has been fantastic.

"There has been a lot of work gone into the town and the golf course and it is sure to pay off.

"There has been so many people call into the bar - there was a guy in from Barbados who said he had never been so cold in all his life. We are doing well and come the weekend we will really see the difference - hopefully Rory gets there.

"But for just five or six days, it will be talked about for years - I don't think there has been anything like it or will be like it again."

John, a member at Royal County Down, said his best round on the course was probably somewhere in the 80s - good enough for the world number one.

John McCarthy travelled all the way from Virginia in America to watch the golf.

"With the names involved I had to come to Newcastle," he said.

"I've been to the big championship events in America and this is just something completely different.

"The atmosphere is different, the crowds are different, it's a completely different set-up.

"We followed McIlroy around for five or six holes and then joined a couple of other groups and then followed Shane Lowry."

John only managed to get himself a ticket for Thursday and today's play.

"I'll be back to play - either here or Portrush," he added. From closer to home, Donaghadee woman Eleanor Alcock enjoyed an outing with her golfing friends and they were delighted with how the town had been transformed for the tournament - one even got a wave from Sergio Garcia.

Eleanor added: "We been really very impressed with how easily people are getting out of the bunkers here.

"It's been a great day out, we have all been very impressed, especially with how easy they make golf look."

While many had made the long journey from all four corners of the world, some were not at all keen to be seen at the event.

"Work might be a bit difficult if they see me here," said one Cork man.

And while the atmosphere may have been buzzing, one man's particular round was on everyone's lips, and for all the wrong reasons.

"Poor Rory," said Belfast woman Lily Young, who has been holidaying in Newcastle for the past four decades.

"I only know a bit about the golf - but nine over!"

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