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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

Published 29/05/2015

Rory McIlroy meets Van Morrison at the Slieve Donard Hotel yesterday
Rory McIlroy meets Van Morrison at the Slieve Donard Hotel yesterday
Teachers and pupils from St Mary’s, Mullaghbawn

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."

Is this George Clooney in Newcastle? Spotted by and photo taken by Caroline McKenna Twitter @cmkenna91
Is this George Clooney in Newcastle? Spotted by and photo taken by Caroline McKenna Twitter @cmkenna91
George Clooney
Manchester United skipper Wayne Rooney
David and Victoria Beckham
David Beckham
Shane Warne
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 03: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his tee shot on the par 4, 4th hole during his championship match in the World Golf Championships Cadillac Match Play at TPC Harding Park on May 3, 2015 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 11: Jockey AP McCoy prepares to ride his 20th Grand National on Day 3 of the Aintree races at Aintree Racecourse on April 11, 2015 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Richard Martin-Roberts/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 23: Jamie Redknapp attends the Sky Red Carpet Dinner during Advertising Week Europe on March 23, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images for Advertising Week)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 28: Patrick Kielty attends the "Follies In Concert" gala performance in celebration of Stephen Sondheim's 85th birthday year at Royal Albert Hall on April 28, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Getty Images)
Pacemaker Press Belfast 28-05-2015; Dubai Duty Free Irish Open 2015 : Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Day One Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Royal County Down Golf Club, Newcastle, Northern Ireland. Rory McIlroy pictured on the 18th. Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 28th May 2015 Round 1 of the 2015 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Royal County Down Golf Club, Newcastle, Northern Ireland. Martin Kaymer, Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy.
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 28th May 2015 Round 1 of the 2015 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Royal County Down Golf Club, Newcastle, Northern Ireland. World number one Rory McIlroy.
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 28th May 2015 Round 1 of the 2015 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Royal County Down Golf Club, Newcastle, Northern Ireland. World number one Rory McIlroy.
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 28th May 2015 Round 1 of the 2015 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Royal County Down Golf Club, Newcastle, Northern Ireland. World number one Rory McIlroy.
Pacemaker Press Belfast 28-05-2015; Dubai Duty Free Irish Open 2015 : Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Day One Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Royal County Down Golf Club, Newcastle, Northern Ireland. Rory McIlroy pictured on the 11th. Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Pacemaker Press Belfast 28-05-2015; Dubai Duty Free Irish Open 2015 : Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Day One Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Royal County Down Golf Club, Newcastle, Northern Ireland. Rory McIlroy pictured on the 18th. Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Pacemaker Press Belfast 28-05-2015; Dubai Duty Free Irish Open 2015 : Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Day One Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Royal County Down Golf Club, Newcastle, Northern Ireland. Rory McIlroy pictured on the 18th. Picture By: Arthur Allison.
NEWCASTLE, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 28: Paul McGinley of Ireland hits his 2nd shot on the 13th hole during the First Round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Royal County Down Golf Club on May 28, 2015 in Newcastle, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
NEWCASTLE, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 28: Martin Kaymer of Germany is watched by crowds on the 15th hole during the First Round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Royal County Down Golf Club on May 28, 2015 in Newcastle, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
NEWCASTLE, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 28: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits his 2nd shot on the 15th hole during the First Round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Royal County Down Golf Club on May 28, 2015 in Newcastle, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
NEWCASTLE, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 28: Crowds surround the 10th green during the First Round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Royal County Down Golf Club on May 28, 2015 in Newcastle, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
NEWCASTLE, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 28: Oliver Farr of Wales lines up on the 7th green during the First Round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Royal County Down Golf Club on May 28, 2015 in Newcastle, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
NEWCASTLE, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 28: Oliver Farr of Wales looks down the 8th hole during the First Round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Royal County Down Golf Club on May 28, 2015 in Newcastle, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
NEWCASTLE, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 28: Brendan McGovern of Ireland tees off during the First Round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Royal County Down Golf Club on May 28, 2015 in Newcastle, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
NEWCASTLE, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 28: Edouard Espana of France chips on the 7th hole during the First Round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Royal County Down Golf Club on May 28, 2015 in Newcastle, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
NEWCASTLE, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 28: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland tees off on the 10th hole during the First Round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Royal County Down Golf Club on May 28, 2015 in Newcastle, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
NEWCASTLE, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 28: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walks to the 10th green with Rickie Fowler of the United States during the First Round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Royal County Down Golf Club on May 28, 2015 in Newcastle, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
NEWCASTLE, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 28: Rickie Fowler of the United States walks down the 13th hole during the First Round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Royal County Down Golf Club on May 28, 2015 in Newcastle, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
NEWCASTLE, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 28: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland tees off on the 10th hole during the First Round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Royal County Down Golf Club on May 28, 2015 in Newcastle, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
NEWCASTLE, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 28: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walks to the 10th green with Rickie Fowler of the United States during the First Round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Royal County Down Golf Club on May 28, 2015 in Newcastle, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
L-R) Matt Ginella, TV Personally Patrick Kielty, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Ricky Fowler of the USA and former Jockey AP McCoy pose on the 18th green after playing in the Pro-Am during the Irish Open Previews at Royal County Down Golf Club on May 27, 2015 in Newcastle, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)
Ernie Els. Picture by Andrew Paton / Press Eye
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (C), former Australian cricketer Shane Warne (L), and Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland walk from the 18th green after playing in the Pro-Am during the Irish Open Previews at Royal County Down Golf Club on May 27, 2015 in Newcastle, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (L), talks with TV personality Patrick Kielty and Former Jockey AP McCoy on the 18th green after playing in the Pro-Am during the Irish Open Previews at Royal County Down Golf Club on May 27, 2015 in Newcastle, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (R), talking with Peter Lawrie of Ireland on the 1st tee during the afternoon Pro-Am during the Irish Open Previews at Royal County Down Golf Club on May 27, 2015 in Newcastle, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)
Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland (C), Stephen Watson of BBC Northern Ireland (R) and former Australian cricketer Shane share a joke after playing in the Pro-Am during the Irish Open Previews at Royal County Down Golf Club on May 27, 2015 in Newcastle, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (R), meets Sergio Garcia of Spain on the 1st tee during the afternoon Pro-Am during the Irish Open Previews at Royal County Down Golf Club on May 27, 2015 in Newcastle, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)
Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke shares a joke with former Irish Rugby player Stephen Ferris. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke shares a joke with former Irish Rugby player Stephen Ferris. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke shares a joke with former Irish Rugby player Stephen Ferris. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness takes part in a tour of the facilities at the Irish Open in Newcastle, Co Down. He is pictured with Kathryn Thompson, Chief Operating Officer of Tourism Northern Ireland. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Colm McLoughlin - Executive Vice Chairman, Dubai Duty Free with the 3rd place Pro-Am team, Stephen Watson, Darren Clarke and Stephen Ferris who played for the Tourism NI
Dubai Duty Free presents Kate Docherty with her award for the longest drive Picture by Darren Kidd / Press Eye
26 May 2015 - Picture by Darren Kidd / Press Eye. 2015 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open: Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Pro-Am Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Royal County Down Golf Club, Newcastle, Northern Ireland. Colm McLoughlin - Executive Vice Chairman, Dubai Duty Free presents Kate Docherty with her award for the longest drive
Rory McIlroy pictured signs autographs . Picture By: Arthur Allison.
James Nesbitt and Paddy Wallace. Picture by Darren Kidd / Press Eye
James Nesbitt Picture by Andrew Paton / Press Eye.
Actor James Nesbitt pictured on the 1st Tee . Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Darren Clarke with former Irish rugby player Stephen Ferris. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Comedian Patrick Kielty on the 1st tee. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Miguel Angel Jimenez. Photographer Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Former footballer Pat Jennings, left, with snooker player Dennis Taylor. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland answers questions from the media during the Pro-Am (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Rickie Fowler of the Unitd States chats to former Jockey AP McCoy during the Pro-Am (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland greets Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Pictured on the 12th tee Rory McIlroy . Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Rory McIlroy pictured signs autographs . Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and Rickie Fowler of the United States chat to TV Personality Patrick Kielty (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Darren Clarke on the1st tee, Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye?
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walks up the 18th hole with an umbrella during the Pro-Am (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Rafa Cabrera-Bello of Spain chats to Dermot Desmond during the Pro-Am (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Former snooker player Dennis Taylor, left, with Paul Lawrie, centre, and Brendan Taylor. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Darren Clarke on the1st tee, Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Darren Clarke with former Irish rugby player Stephen Ferris. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Darren Clarke with former Irish rugby player Stephen Ferris, BBC presenter Stephen Watson and Shane Warne. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Snooker player Dennis Taylor, left, with former footballer Pat Jennings on the 1st tee. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Comedian Patrick Kielty on the 1st tee. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Former footballer Pat Jennings with snooker player Dennis Taylor, centre and Paul Lawrie. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Former snooker player Dennis Taylor, left, with Paul Lawrie, centre, and Brendan Taylor. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Former footballer Pat Jennings, left, with snooker player Dennis Taylor. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Comedian Patrick Kielty on the 1st tee. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Jockey Tony McCoy on the 1st tee. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Jockey Tony McCoy on the 1st tee. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Comedian Patrick Kielty on the 1st tee. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Comedian Patrick Kielty on the 1st tee. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Jockey Tony McCoy, left, with Rickie Fowler and Comedian Patrick Kielty on the 1st tee. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Rickie Fowler on the 1st tee. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Paddy Kielty. Photographer Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
World number one Rory McIlroy along with Rickie Fowler. Photographer Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Comedian Patrick Kielty on the 1st tee Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Darren Clarke with former Irish rugby player Stephen Ferris and Shane Warne. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Graeme McDowell. Photographer Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland runs past gorse bushes to get to the 4th tee during the Pro-Am (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Royal County Down Golf Club, Newcastle, Northern Ireland. Photographer Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
NEWCASTLE, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 27: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland tees off on the 4th hole during the Pro-Am Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy takes a selfie with the cast of Riverdance on May 26, 2015 in Newcastle, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Rickie Fowler of the Unitd States chats to former Jockey AP McCoy during the Pro-Am (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Jose Manuel Lara of Spain in action during a practice round prior to The Irish Open at Royal County Down Golf Club (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Sergio Garcia of Spain looks on with caddie Glen Murray during the Pro-Am (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Pablo Larrazabal of Spain gestures during the Pro-Am (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
2015 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Royal County Down Golf Club, Newcastle, Northern Ireland. Photographer Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Graeme McDowell. Photographer Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Ernie Els. Photographer Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Pictured on his way to the 1st tee Darren Clarke,Shane Warne and Stephen Ferris . Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Paddy Kielty and AP McCoy Picture by Darren Kidd / Press Eye.
Ernie Els. Photographer Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Stephen Watson and Darren Clarke Picture by Darren Kidd / Press Eye.
Australian cricketer Shane Warne Picture by Darren Kidd / Press Eye.
Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland walks with Stephen Watson of the BBC (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland tees looks down the 1st hole during the Pro-Am (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Rickie Fowler of the United States hits his 2nd shot on the 3rd hole during the Pro-Am (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Graeme McDowell Picture by Andrew Paton / Press Eye.

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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