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Northern Ireland doctor hits the jackpot as top golfing stars join her on fairway

Belfast woman on Covid duty in Dubai gets a surprise visit from Ryder Cup quartet


Pitch perfect: Dr Ellie McCarthy with her husband and (from left) Tommy Fleetwood, Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter

Pitch perfect: Dr Ellie McCarthy with her husband and (from left) Tommy Fleetwood, Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter

Pitch perfect: Dr Ellie McCarthy with her husband and (from left) Tommy Fleetwood, Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter

It is the sort of thing most golf fans dream about - four of the sport's biggest names inviting you to tee off with them.

And Eleanor McCarthy could be forgiven for thinking she was dreaming when Ryder Cup stars Ian Poulter, Tommy Fleetwood, Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood showed up with their clubs for a round with her.

The Northern Ireland doctor, who has been treating Covid-19 patients in Dubai throughout 2020, was lost for words when the world-famous quartet suddenly appeared as she was doing what she thought was a television interview about the pandemic.

"I had no clue; absolutely no idea," said Eleanor, a keen golfer herself who plays off 24.

"The European Tour and sponsors DP World had spoken to the main golf clubs in Dubai as they were looking to speak with a doctor, nurse or patient, someone who has been involved in the fight against Covid.

"Little did I know that this was all a set-up."

Belfast native Eleanor (40), who has been living in Dubai for almost five years with husband Chris (35), a risk manager, and children Aidan (12), Beth (nine) and two-year-old Cian told how she accepted an invitation to the Jumeirah Golf Estates for an interview about Dubai's healthcare community.

"They sucked me in by the fact that it was on the pro-am the day prior to the DP World Tour Championship, telling me I could walk around the course afterwards," she recalled.

"I told Chris I was going to do this, not knowing he'd already taken my golf clubs there the day before... I genuinely hadn't a clue about what was going on."

A video, which was later released by the organisers, revealed how the drama unfolded around Eleanor, who works as a family medicine consultant at King's College Hospital in the United Arab Emirates city.

Seated before the 'interviewer', she suddenly notices Ian Poulter, famous for his Ryder Cup exploits and outlandish dress sense, walking towards her.

And although retaining her composure - believing the interview in progress to be a real one - she does miss what the interviewer has said, and asks him to repeat the question.

Poulter, however, interrupts proceedings to introduce himself - and invite her to play a round of golf instead.

"I saw those colourful trousers (of yours) on Instagram this morning," she tells the popular Englishman, who replies: "That's awesome", adding: "but what's more awesome is the work that you, and all your colleagues, have done and are continuing to do."

The pair were eventually joined by Poulter's compatriots Tommy Fleetwood and former world number one Lee Westwood - who went on to finish runner-up in the tournament and therefore win the coveted 'Race to Dubai' - and Swede Henrik Stenson, the 2016 Open champion.

Eleanor, who previously worked at Antrim Area Hospital, spent most of the afternoon with Poulter, a DP World ambassador, and the others, whom she described as "lovely".

She added: "I had a real laugh with them. It was great - I got some amazing tips from those guys."

It was an added bonus that her favourite player is Fleetwood.

"When he came along, that's when I stopped being able to hit the ball very well. I think he's adorable," she said.

"Overall, the day was fantastic. I've never had anything like that happen to me before and I'm sure I won't ever again."

Eleanor, whose parents - Walter (73) and Gladys (71) Curry - live in Belfast, said she grew up watching golf but only took up the sport in Dubai two years ago.

Not surprisingly, she said she is a big fan of our own four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, who will visit her adopted home turf shortly.

"It was announced today that Rory will play in Adu Dhabi next month, and then there's the Desert Classic in Dubai. We'll definitely go to both of them," she said.

And will McIlroy win another major? Her reply: "Of course."

Belfast Telegraph