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'I could watch golf until the cows come home': Ballymena farmer becomes an online hit with the hottest seat at the Irish Open


Just champion: Ballymena farmer Billy O’Kane had the only ‘seat’ at the Irish Open at Galgorm

Just champion: Ballymena farmer Billy O’Kane had the only ‘seat’ at the Irish Open at Galgorm

Just champion: Ballymena farmer Billy O’Kane had the only ‘seat’ at the Irish Open at Galgorm

A Ballymena farmer had the best "legal" seat in the house on Saturday to watch the Irish Open at the weekend - as he became an unwitting viral sensation.

Sitting in his field on a deck chair with flask of tea to hand, award-winning beef farmer Billy O'Kane took in the sights and sounds of the championships for around an hour accompanied by a batch of his in-calf heifers that surrounded him.

Billy has become somewhat of celebrity online as cameras covering the Irish Open golf championship focused on him enjoying a cup of tea in his surroundings.

While the public was banned from attending the championships due to the ongoing Covid-19 regulations, Billy was seated a safe distance away across the river taking it all in.

"It probably was the only legal seat to watch the championships," said Billy. "I was well outside the golfers bubble sitting in my own field enjoying the rounds.

"We have land adjacent to the golf course and I was out checking the heifers on Saturday. I had some free time and decided to unfold the deckchair and enjoy the view.

"I probably sat there for around one hour surrounded by the cattle who seemed to enjoy the game as well," he said.

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Billy, who has won a farmer of the year award in the past, is also a fully trained vet and worked in the famous Skeldale Veterinary Centre based in the market town of Thirsk in North Yorkshire which is the original James Herriot practice.

TV commentators could hardly believe their eyes as the cameras zoomed in on the relaxed farmer and his herd, just yards from the course.

"There's one of the few spectators outside of the bubble," said Padraig Harrington who missed the weekend cut.

"He's got a few friends as well."

He added: "That's just like so much normality to him, isn't it?"

Billy's appearance has had hundreds of thousands of views on social media, as well as on regular TV.

Billy said he only found out about his online fame when his brother and children saw him on TV and started sending him messages while he was still in the field.

"While I was taking in all the action and pouring another cup of tea I started receiving messages on my phone," Billy said. "My brother and children had noticed me on the TV and were sending my WhatsApp messages about it.

"They said the TV commentators were talking about me and that my photo was all over twitter.

"Later on my wife and mother came down to join me for a short time to see what all the fuss was about. Like me, my wife also plays a bit of golf and enjoyed watching the professionals. My mum is 84 and is very fit for her age. She also joined in the fun watching the golf," he said.

"I have played that course myself and I can say it can be quite unforgiving for the ordinary player like me. The rough between the fairways on that Galgorm course is quite heavy. You need to be a really good player to keep the drive straight."

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