Belfast Telegraph

Is that really Condoleezza Rice playing golf in Portrush? It certainly is the former US Secretary of State!

By Chris McCullough

It's not often a former US Secretary of State makes a low key appearance in Northern Ireland but that's exactly what happened when Condoleezza Rice dropped in recently for a round or two of golf.

She was once one of the world's most powerful ladies, assisting President George W Bush during his administration, and was always surrounded by a team of security everywhere she went.

However, on Saturday, June 27, Ms Rice, accompanied by her friend Mariann Byerwalter from Stanford University, dropped into the Royal Portrush Golf Club for a round of golf.

The opportunity arose as the duo were holidaying in Ireland and had been invited to visit Northern Ireland by Wilma Erskine, secretary/manager of the Royal Portrush Golf Club.

While on a promotional visit to the US Masters at Augusta National Golf Club in April, Wilma was informed of Condoleezza's pending private holiday plans to Ireland.

Wilma said: "I was delighted to have the opportunity to invite her to Northern Ireland and take in a few rounds of golf.

"I wasn't sure whether she would actually turn up or not but I am very glad she did.

"It was pretty much a low key flying visit from Condoleezza and her friend Mariann. The pair of them came up from Dublin with a driver and no security whatsoever."

Wilma had visited Augusta in April as part of a promotional drive to increase golf tourism to Northern Ireland.

Her travel there had been assisted by the local Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.

Condoleezza Rice is a member of the famous US golf club after establishing an interest in the game during her time in office at the White House. She was the US Secretary of State from 2005 to 2009.

Wilma was at the club to welcome the famous visitor to Portrush along with club Captain Sir Richard McLaughlin.

"The visitors also played some golf at the Royal County Down course on a different day, travelling up from Dublin where they were staying.

"She is an avid golfer and just wanted a quiet visit to enjoy the world famous course we have at Portrush.

"That Saturday was our Captain's Day so the two ladies teamed up with two other local ladies and past captains, Moyra McElderry and Helen Jones, and went out for a game in the afternoon.

"The weather was great and they had a good game of golf."

The visit was a major coup for the Northern Ireland golf courses even though it was low key.

Wilma is very happy her trip to Augusta in April had furnished such a major reward.

She added: "Having a former US Secretary of State playing a round of golf on a Saturday afternoon in Portrush is a great boost for the club.

"Condoleezza is very down to earth. She is a very pleasant person and seemed to enjoy herself.

"She was impressed with our course here and said she had a lot of fun playing it.

"Augusta is an event not to be missed. It is attended by all the top golfers and administrators and is a good event to be part of.

"It offers excellent networking opportunities," added Wilma.

Belfast Telegraph


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