US vice-president Joe Biden has said his career is in better shape than his golf game, as he kept his promise to play a round in Ireland.
Barack Obama’s right-hand man battled blustery conditions around Castlebar Golf Club in Co Mayo — the Augusta of Connacht, and Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s home course.
With a packed clubhouse looking on, the two men diplomatically halved the match on the 18th. Two holes earlier, on the par-three 16th, Mr Biden watched nervously as his tee shot narrowly missed a water hazard before hinting that the Taoiseach had the upper hand.
Asked how his golf game was going, the vice-president said: “It’s going. Fortunately politics is going better.”
The round was organised as part of Mr Biden’s six-day trip to Ireland, a private and personal visit to trace his ancestral roots before his term in office ends later this year.
Mr Biden had also promised the tour of Ireland to his son Beau, a veteran of the Iraq war, who died last year from brain cancer before the commitment could be met.
It is understood the long-standing invite to play golf with the Taoiseach in Ireland helped instigate such a long and varied visit from the vice-president.
Ranked several years ago by Golf Digest at 29 in its list of Washington’s top 150 golfers, Mr Biden plays with a handicap of 6.3 — up there with John F Kennedy as among the best the White House has seen. Buoyed by the challenge of a parkland course rather than the wilds of Irish links, Mr Biden was part of a fourball with his brother Jimmy, Mr Kenny, and Castlebar club captain Frank Murray.
In full glare of the cameras and members at the back of the 16th green, the vice-president landed his ball a yard from the pond but saved face with a steady chip out of the rough to the heart of the green. The Taoiseach gave no quarter and putted his second to within a couple of feet of the hole for the vice-president to call a ‘gimme’.
Tom Prendergast, member of the Castlebar club and owner of the Village Inn in nearby Ballyvary, dismissed any sense of transatlantic rivalry on the fairways.
“It was a wonderful spectacle. Castlebar put on a great show,” he said.
“The Taoiseach played some great golf, but it was just a friendly.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved