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Irish Open: Portstewart looks set for record crowds thanks to big stars and efforts of unsung volunteers

By Adam McKendry

As the marshals around Portstewart Golf Club clear up after a successful Pro-Am, it's worth reflecting on the massive amount of manpower that is required to make this event what it is.

With the crowds sidling away at the end of the day's play, it gives the 600 volunteers a chance to catch their breath before the preparation begins for it all to start over again.

Those 600 volunteers have come from 15 different clubs around Ireland, several of which are in Ulster, reflecting that this isn't just Portstewart's tournament, this is Ireland's event.

Those hundreds of volunteers will cater for around an astounding 28,000 spectators a day.

Should they get that number for all four days - with official estimations reckoning Sunday's number will be even higher - then that will equal the record number of spectators at an Irish Open, 112,000, set at Royal Portrush in 2012.

Indeed, that the course was packed out for yesterday's Pro-Am, a day for fans to see some celebrities while the professionals take it a bit easy, is a reflection on how this week is going to go.

That, however, is ideal for tournament director Michael Moss who, fresh from his round with Finn Mikko Ilonen, says he's ready for an excellent tournament.

"It's exceeding my expectations, look at this today and it's only the Pro-Am," Moss beams as he surveys the area around the 18th green, which has stands surrounding it.

"What is it going to be like on Sunday if we've got all these thousands here today? The weather's going to be great, there's a great atmosphere and I think we're set for a great tournament.

"We're looking at numbers that are going to be somewhere in the region of what was at Royal Portrush five years ago and we'd be delighted with that, and I know the Tour would be delighted with that too."

Moss, who is a member at Portstewart as well as being in charge of the running of the event, also admitted he couldn't be happier with those who gave up their time to be volunteers at the club.

"We've got 60 greenkeepers and 40 of those have come from different parts of the world and they're here at half four every morning," he also reveals.

"I can't tell you how proud I am of all of them."

Ironically, after a year and a half of careful and intricate planning, on Monday morning it all gets taken down after just six days of action, and Moss's job is done. But he admits that, although he believes the tournament will go by without a hitch, he's not thinking beyond the four days of competitive golf yet.

"I think the weather will play a big part in it and we have the course set up very fair to get it running," Moss admits.

"Hopefully we'll have no disruptions and I'm feeling very confident about it."

It promises to be a memorable few days.

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