Belfast Telegraph

Not many are on a par with Ryder Cup hero Paul McGinley

By Claire Harrison

All the way back in 1989, I remember an almighty fuss about a young golfer winning a big trophy. It was one of the McGinley family from Dunfanaghy, Co Donegal, and he was being talked about as a serious star of the future after winning the Irish Amateur Close Championship.

That summer, I was one of a band of youngsters who hung around Dunfanaghy Golf Club, taking lessons on putting, chipping and driving and learning how to mark a card. When we weren't at the club, my brother and I were chipping into a hole we dug outside our family caravan which still looks down over the clubhouse at the Donegal links course.

The young golfer we dreamed of emulating that summer was called Paul McGinley who, while a Dubliner, was well known in Dunfanaghy where his father is from and where he first picked up a club. After this first big title, it wasn't long before a framed picture of McGinley, holding his impressive new silverware, was hung prominently in the clubhouse where he and his family have been members for many years. It was a sign of the immense pride in his achievement that, as we all now know, has been followed by many more in the 25 years since. That pride has only intensified as McGinley went on to a top-flight career as a professional which has included a key role in many Ryder Cup victories.

All those moments have been documented and cherished as part of the history of this small club.

So it's no surprise Dunfanaghy Golf Club was the place to be at the weekend (other than Gleneagles) as hundreds of well-wishers gathered to watch the action with every confidence in one of their own bringing home one of the biggest prizes in world sport. There wasn't one doubt about McGinley's chances as members enjoyed three days of excitable competition, entertainment, food and, of course, plenty of drink, leading up to the climax of Jamie Donaldson's spectacular winning wedge. Knowing the kind of man he is, no one was surprised to see McGinley pull off a captainship that has set the blueprint for all future captains to follow.

The hero Ryder Cup captain is still a regular visitor to Dunfanaghy and is well known for his generosity and modesty. After he sank the winning 10 foot putt to clinch the 2002 Ryder Cup, one of the first places he took the distinctive trophy was his childhood club. And everyone's certain he'll be home again soon to show it off once more.

The golfer's parents, Mick and Julia, are very active members of the club, and nifty golfers themselves. They've both been very helpful to me at various times since I was a dreaming young golfer. Mick bent over backwards to help me with an article I wrote about McGinley after he won the Welsh Open in 2001 (not to mention making my dad's day by giving him a golf jumper brought back from the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah) and I always came away with a gem of advice when I played with Julia in competitions.

Having been a member at Dunfanaghy all my life, I dropped golf in my mid-20s when working in Belfast, marriage and then motherhood left my clubs gathering cobwebs. I was never troubling the low handicappers much anyway. But, like everyone else at Dunfanaghy, I've followed every step of McGinley's career with tremendous pride and no surprise whatsoever. It's been great this week to see his status as not just a great golfer, but a thoroughly decent man and leader, confirmed beyond doubt.

Well done, Paul.

Judy shows she Strictly Scottish

Judy Murray has so far kept quiet on what she thought of her star son Andy coming out in favour of Scottish independence – and the impact it will have on her appeal to the British voting viewers of Strictly Come Dancing.

She certainly didn't seem too bothered about the furore when she debuted with a performance steeped in her homeland.

There was perhaps a wee message in her decision to dance in a tartan gown, with a man wearing a kilt, to the strains of Mull of Kintyre, accompanied by a bagpiper.

Smart move, that's 1,617,989 guaranteed votes.

My city cats are a purr-fect pair

Far be it from me to dispute the findings of an eminent cat professor.

But I have to disagree with Dr Sarah Ellis, a university research fellow, who says city dwellers who keep more than one cat are making them unhappy.

Dr Ellis, who wants to see an urban one-cat-per-household policy, has obviously never met my two moggies who are proud city cats.

Yes, Mac and Pants scrap over territory and the last bite of food – but they also snuggle, protect, play practical jokes on each other and go on adventures together. They're purr-fectly and cat-egorically happy.

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