JP McManus's magnetic appeal attracts the stars to Adare

Big names of sport, film and music descended on the Manor to the benefit of local charities and organisations
JP McManus's magnetic appeal attracts the stars to Adare

Monkstown's Cian McNamara caddying for PGA Tour player Matt Kucher during the first round of the JP McManus Pro- Am at Adare Manor Golf Resort. Picture: Niall O'Shea

IT could only happen here where the national professional golf championship lagged behind a pro-am in terms of appeal and even importance.

The Irish Open at Mount Juliet attracted the usual high level of interest but faded as the weekend wore on, when Shane Lowry and Seamus Power began dropping out of contention.

That the title went to the unknown Pole Adrian Meronk only added to the ‘so-what’? attitude among the non-golfing fraternity, who were puzzled why the JP McManus Pro-Am at Adare Manor should be so popular.

Yet, Meronk is a name we’re going to hear a lot more about in the coming years after his brilliant 20 under-par total included a birdie, birdie, eagle, par finish on his final round to win by three shots.

And there was a true international look to the leader board after it was all done and dusted with Kiwi Ryan Fox in second place, South Africa’s Thriston Lawrence next, followed by Scotland’s David Law, John Catlin from the US and Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti sharing fourth.

But, where were all the leading players? In brief, they were playing some of the great links courses in these parts, Ballybunion, Lahinch and Tralee to mention just three, as part of their preparations for the British Open at St Andrews.

Ten of the leading 11 players in the world rankings rocked up to Ireland, but none saw the merit in playing the Irish Open because of its parklands lay-out.

Golfers of all shapes, sizes and abilities know there’s a word of difference between links and parkland, but there’s an obvious contradiction, isn’t there?

Why, then turn around and play Adare Manor in a pro-am on a course that’s as American and even more so than tracks in the US?

Again, there’s a simple answer to that, too, JP McManus and his brilliant foundation that has generated millions of much needed cash for charities and organisations in his beloved Limerick and mid-west area in general.

Since its humbling beginnings in 1990 at Limerick GC, when 42 teams, including that number of pros, raised €1.2m, the most famous Pro-Am in the world has mushroomed to unprecedented levels.

It appeared a second time five years later and boosted by the organisation skills and experience of the European Tour, managed to contribute €4m to deserving causes.

In 2000, the Pro-Am scaled amazing heights as 15,000 people attended the two-day event mainly to see Tiger Woods in action.

And the then 25-years-old didn’t disappoint, claiming first prize in a season which saw Tiger capture three majors, the US and British Opens as well as the PGA before adding the Masters the following season for his Grand Slam.

Tiger’s appearance helped raise a whopping €19.8m and since then JP mas managed to attract the biggest names not only in golf, but wider afield too, like Alex Ferguson, Gary Lineker and Martin O’Neill in soccer, Hollywood, music, business and other sports, too.

I mention that trio because they happened to tee it up 21 years ago, a month before Denis Irwin’s testimonial at Old Trafford, and we paid a visit to see if they’d talk about the great Corkman’s career.

All three obliged, particularly Ferguson, who I approached just as the then Manchester United manager completed his round and was about to enter the locker-room.

After a brief introduction, the ‘boss’, said: “Wait there, don’t move, I’m just going to clean my shoes and I’ll back.” 

The cynic in me retorted ‘fat chance of that happening, but at least it was an excuse I hadn’t heard before.’ 

I couldn’t have been more wrong because not only did Ferguson return post haste, but he gave of his time to speak flowingly and eloquently about the lad from Togher.

“And it’s about time you did a piece on Denis,” he quipped before starting.

A couple of weeks later I bumped into Ferguson again at United’s training ground, where Denis was collecting me after training for an interview. “And make sure Irwin buys lunch,” he joked.

It's a reflection of the almost magnetic appeal JP has on people, who pencil the date of his Pro-Am into their diaries at the start of the year.

And Limerick hurlers made sure the week began on a positive note for McManus.

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