WHILE other players were making their final preparations for the today’s start to 3 Irish Open golf championship, home-hero Padraig Harrington was making the dreams of a young golf fanatic come true.
Peter McEnery was whisked from his home in Killarney at 7am to the nearby Killarney Golf and Fishing Club course by one of the official player cars. Once there he met his golfing hero on the practice green and then took part in the 3 Irish Open Pro-Am.
The 14-year-old, who lives with cystic fibrosis, was given the envious opportunity courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s partnership with this competition’s owners.
Three-time Major champion Harrington, who is a Make-A-Wish Ireland Ambassador, presented Peter with golf shirts to wear on his special day.
Tens of thousands of people are due in Kerry for the August bank holiday, with the 3 Irish Open Golf Championship being the main attraction.
Most hotels and guesthouses in the town itself and the surrounding areas expect to be booked out for what will be the busiest weekend of the year in the tourist haven.
The four-day golf championship, which has a €3 million prize fund, including €500,000 for the victor, gets under way today, with the first players teeing off on the lakeside Killeen course at 7am.
With leading Irish golfers such as Padraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke and title holder Shane Lowry in the field, there are high hopes of a home winner.
Several thousand GAA supporters from Kerry will also be travelling to Croke Park for the All-Ireland football championship quarter-final meeting with Down, on Saturday.
Golf fans, however, will be able to watch the weekend GAA matches on big screens at the golf club.
Killarney SummerFest, which has a busy street entertainment programme, has this year been organised to coincide with the golf, ensuring a carnival atmosphere in the town for the weekend.
Gardaí are expecting crowds in the region of 5,000 to 8,000 on today and tomorrow, with crowds of about 10,000 to 15,000, on Saturday and Sunday.
Designated parking facilities for about 4,500 cars have been provided in nine car parks close to the course and a shuttle bus service is also bringing people from Killarney town to the course.
Sgt Ray Walsh, Killarney, yesterday urged local people to leave their cars at home and use the shuttle service, adding that people might also consider walking to the course.
“We will also be keeping the main Ring of Kerry road, which passes the golf course, open to normal traffic and there won’t be a one-way system in operation,” he said.
“But, if we get into difficulties, we will implement a one-way system through Aghadoe.”
Meanwhile, a huge tented village — said to be the biggest ever at the Irish Open — has opened for business on the course.
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