Belfast Telegraph

A-list guests arrive for golf star Rory McIlroy and Erica Stoll's wedding

Rory McIlroy was friends with Erica Stoll before romance blossomed
Rory McIlroy was friends with Erica Stoll before romance blossomed
Photographers outside Ashford Castle in Co Mayo, where Rory McIlroy is to marry Erica Stoll
Security check a van outside Ashford Castle

Security was tight and the rumour mill in full drive for the wedding of golf star Rory McIlroy and his sweetheart Erica Stoll in the west of Ireland.

As helicopters and blacked out cars and SUVs ferried guests to the 13th century Ashford Castle, a steady stream of locals and tourists traipsed up to the gates in forlorn hope of a sneak peek.

Sadly the four time major winner's representatives insisted the celebrations were a private event and there would be no photos, at least not on the day.

Behind the 12ft walls a lavish ceremony was reputedly laid on, including a massive fireworks display, while a more down to earth touch came as a photo booth was brought into the historic venue for guests to create their own memento.

And to avoid any unwanted intrusion past the gatekeepers, the organisers went as far as to bring in anti-drone experts and put security teams on boats on Lough Corrib.

Rumour abounded that soul legend Stevie Wonder, spotted in Galway city on Friday, had been flown in to provide the entertainment.

And adding fuel to the fire was Thomas Ryan, the local butcher in nearby Cong, Co Mayo, who reported heard the star playing on Friday night while he was out fishing.

The guest list was said to include the likes of Niall Horan of One Direction and recent US Masters winner Sergio Garcia who made the trip along with Ryder Cup player Martin Kaymer and captain Paul McGinley.

Race horse owner JP McManus was on the list with his wife Noreen and there was much talk of a possible flying visit from Ed Sheeran, if he could get offstage in Manchester early enough.

Young Eanna Keady sat on the wall opposite the front gate of Ashford Castle with his mother Orla after taking a detour on their way home from a family holiday in Connemara.

"I'm an Ed Sheeran fan mainly," he said.

His mother added: "I'd like to see the bride of course. She's gorgeous. I'd say she'd be a beautiful bride."

McIlroy, from Holywood, Co Down, revealed in a recent interview that he was friends with 29-year-old New Yorker Ms Stoll before romance blossomed.

The pair met while she worked for the US PGA and lived in Palm Beach, Florida.

She was credited with getting the 27-year-old star to the first tee on time for his singles match in the 2012 Ryder Cup "Miracle in Medinah" after he missed his alarm.

The wedding venue, an exclusive 350-acre estate, is no stranger to stars from as far back as the 1950s when it was the setting for screen classic The Quiet Man starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.

The village of Cong thrives on its connections to the film and big names visiting Ashford like Ronald Reagan and Pierce Brosnan.

Two Belgian tourists, in Ireland to run the Connemara marathon this weekend and oblivious to the big event, turned into the gates of the estate hoping for a look at the castle, not the wedding.

Marc Rassart and his wife Kristel Bloemers are not golf fans and were not even sure they would recognise McIlroy.

"We are not fans of golf but I am a fan of castles," Mr Rassart said.

"We stopped for a look at the castle and my wife wanted to take a photo, but no."

Ashford Castle can be rented for about 100,000 euro (£83,700) a day at this time of year and it has been in lockdown for several days.

Not to miss an opportunity the ladies from Ballinrobe Golf Club dropped by to follow-up on an invite for McIlroy to play their course. They did not get far on their mission and have yet to get a reply.

"We sent it to his wedding planner in February but we still hope at some stage that he will take up the offer, and he would be an honorary life member," said Breege Costello.

Among the other disappointed faces looking up at the walls was Judy Percy, originally from New Zealand but living in Tuam, Co Galway, who regularly walks her lively Weimaraner Oscar around the grounds.

"I came to walk my dog and couldn't. Not today unfortunately, I picked the wrong day," she said.

And for anyone wondering what a multi-millionaire golf star has in mind for a honeymoon, McIlroy said he was planning something in "the middle of nowhere".

T hat is about as specific as we can get about the couple's plans.


From Belfast Telegraph