John Gleeson, chairman of the Irish Open committee at Lahinch, believes that the host club “really delivered something very special”.
Though the Irish playing charge faltered somewhat, nothing could take away from the incredible atmosphere both on the course and in the west Clare town.
Gleeson considered the event to be a resounding success — but admitting to breathing a sigh of relief when Robert Rock failed to card a 59 in his record-breaking round on Saturday.
“The course has been amazing, Brian McDonagh (head greenkeeper) has done an amazing job although I was very nervous Saturday watching Robert Rock play the 18th needing a three for a 59. I don’t think this golf course deserves a 59. You got the unique circumstances which happened in Birkdale at the Open a few years ago when Branden Grace shot 62 of no wind, soft, receptive greens. It wasn’t set up easy. Rock did beat the field by three with his 60, I was happy with that, but had there been a 59, that would have been a negative because this course didn’t deserve that.”
There is so much more to the organising and running of a major sporting event like the Irish Open than the playing arena. And the response of all involved with the Lahinch Spectacular deserve nothing but the highest praise
Gleeson continued: “The verdict is that we are very, very pleased. Relieved is not the right word because we felt confident we would be able to deliver a really good Dubai Duty Free Irish Open but it has exceeded our expectations.
“The way the whole community has bought into it ... the last few days have changed my view and certainly Paul’s (McGinley) view about the golf tournament.
“He actually was the one and it was his vision from day one that we would have a family festive atmosphere. I think that is what has been delivered here.
“I’m not sure how he does this. After 18 months working with him, I feel he has the magic touch. He did it as captain of the Ryder Cup so it’s not a once-off. It can’t be by accident.
“He has really delivered something very special. Obviously the golf club is thrilled, we’re thrilled for the community, we’re thrilled for Clare.
“I’ve hardly seen any television because we’re running here to there to everywhere. But we have 300 overseas members and the amount of traction from them back to the club saying this looks amazing and how proud they are to be members.”
By tomorrow and Wednesday, Lahinch Golf Club will be more or less back to normal, the pavilions, tented village, marquees, grandstands and so on will be gone and the green fee visitors and the members will be enjoying the delights of the great links once again. And how will those closest to what has been a spectacular vista look back on it all?
“The reaction from the members is amazing,” said Gleeson.
“We teasingly call Pádraig Slattery ‘the chairman of member affairs’ and he said several months ago, if the members don’t have a great time, we will have failed in our endeavours. We have worked really hard on having them engaged and remember, 400 of our members volunteered. And they’ve had a ball. They have loved this.”
Pre-championship feeling in Lahinch was that this year would be a once-off but now Gleeson sees things differently.
“I think this great championship should consider coming back here sometime in the future”, he said. “A bit like the Open where they have a rota but .... if it was my decision, yes. Whatever happens I hope we get a long legacy out of this.”