Stars play it cool as golf event tees off

LIKE a bride on the eve of her nuptials, Adare Manor was last night eager with anticipation, bursting to lay bare her best assets, and arranging and re-arranging her finery for a glorious unveiling today.

Plucked, preened and pruned to perfection, the prestigious hotel and golf resort was in no way overwhelmed by the calibre of stars stalking its greens, slotting in a few practise rounds before today’s formal tee-off.

Billionaire businessmen abounded: down at the driving range Dermot Desmond whacked and thwacked; Michael Smurfit skulked about in dark glasses and straw boater, his cover blown by a rambunctious American who roared “SMURFIT!” as he scurried past.

Down at the 18th Samuel L Jackson was a triumph of effortless cool.

“JP is a great friend, I support his causes, he supports mine, so we kinda work well together and I enjoy playing golf for free. It’s a great trip, I’ve never been to this part of Ireland before so it’s fun to be here,” Samuel told the Irish Examiner.

Having just completed a practise round with Westlife’s Nicky Byrne, neither would agree who had won.

“Em... nobody,” said Samuel, when asked. “I did, don’t lie,” said Nicky.

“Ok, alright, he won,” Samuel said, before Nicky admitted to losing out. “Actually, Sam won. It was a good round, it wasn’t really a competition you know, we were just kinda hitting balls,” Nicky said. He admitted to being nervous about playing with the world’s top golfers today. Samuel was unfazed.

“There’s nothing to be nervous about, it’s their job, we’re just out here to entertain the fans and sign autographs. We don’t have to be nervous about this. We can play badly and they’ll still love us,” he said.

Another Westlifer, Shane Filan, was taking his game seriously.

“I had two practice rounds, one yesterday and one today. Tomorrow (Monday) is obviously the big day but it’s just amazing. The whole atmosphere of the event is just so exciting, all the famous celebrities, the golfers, all coming together to raise money for a good cause, so you know, it’s brilliant to be here.”

He was full of praise for the man who has organised the outrageously successfully Pro-Am.

“JP has done incredible amounts for charity over the years and the last one raised 30 million euros – which is crazy for one weekend. We’re delighted to be involved this year,” Shane said.

JP himself looked inordinately relaxed as he chatted in the press room tent.

“We’re ready to go. The only hiccup is Lee Westwood can’t play, he has hurt his back. But Richard Green steps in instead,” he said.

Is there a target for what he hopes the event will raise for local charities?

“We don’t have a target. As much as we can,” he said.

Eleven-year-old Jade Power had travelled from Limerick city and had managed to sequester signed golf balls from Samuel L and the Westlife boys. With her was uncle, Tommy Irwin, ex-Cork Celtic player, and member of the 1974 winning team.

Jade proudly displayed Samuel L’s autograph: “Be sweet, be smart, be good.”

Tiger was nowhere in sight and expected to fly in in the early hours of this morning. Separately, members of the McManus Pro-Am committee had organised a welcoming delegation to meet and greet a plane-load of 78 Americans, including players, wives and caddies, due into Shannon from the US and the AT&T tournament.

Nearby, in the charmingly twee village of Adare, locals and tourists bustled about, celebrity spotting, thousands expected to throng the greens of the Manor today.

For those who do, there’s the added incentive of an opportunity to purchase reduced price tickets to the Irish Open in Killarney at the end of the month.

Sweet, smart, good.

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