JP’s pro-am roaring success

TWO early cloudbursts threatened to spoil the fun but after that it was all sunshine.

The players revelled in playing one of the game's finest courses and the vast crowds estimated at something like 21,000 had a ball.

The latest version of the JP McManus pro-am got away to the best imaginable start with some magnificent scoring by the professional and amateur teams alike.

At the end of a marvellous day's golf, the South African Trevor Immelman was the leading individual with a superb eight under par 64. That's a new record for the Robert Trent Jones senior creation while the St Gabriels quartet of pro Richard Green from South Africa and JP's brother Gerry, as well as Noel Nash and Denis O'Brien, enjoyed a three shot advantage over three other teams after shooting no less than 18 under par.

However, this event is more about fun, enjoyment and above all raising vast sums of money for deserving charities. Each of the three ideals were met with a degree of comfort while those who managed to acquire Tiger Woods's autograph were probably the happiest of all!

Woods was one of eight US Tour pros who made the cut at the Western Open in Chicago at the weekend to fly into Shannon Airport on a specially chartered jet around 7am yesterday.

The shotgun start meant that world number one Tiger Woods began at the 15th and he was quickly into his stride with two birdies. He was more consistent than brilliant after this electrifying start and had to wait till he got around to the 5th for his next gain. He was unable to conquer the par five 7th and 9th but did pick up his second two of the day at the 11th, predictably birdied the long 12th and finished on five under alongside Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington.

Wood's performance was all the more meritorious given that he felt feverish on arrival yesterday morning and even more so on completing his 18 holes. He made a quick dash from the course to his bedroom in the manor hotel.

Hopefully, a good night's rest will leave him in better shape and he is expected to be fit and well when he tees it up from the 14th tee this afternoon with the Michael Smurfit team of Tony, Michael Jr and Sharon Smurfit.

Padraig Harrington is very much in the Woods mould. He is well able to join in the fun and indeed on this occasion he was so generous in his willingness to sign autographs that his brand new pen ran out of ink after only nine holes!

But when it came to hitting golf shots, he was as dedicated as ever until he eventually also closed with a 67 in spite of running up a double bogey seven at the 7th where he crashed his second shot into the intimidating seven-acre lake that runs all the way up the right from tee to green.

Woods, Harrington and Donald (one of the octet who flew in from the States early yesterday morning) came in three behind Immelman and one ahead of Andrew Coltart and the back to form Paul Casey who were next best on four under.

Woods' amateur team of Martin McAleese, husband of President Mary McAleese, Fine Gael TD Phil Hogan and Arthur French, a former captain of The K-Club, finished well back in the team event on ten under, while Ireland's European Union commissioner Charlie McCreevy teamed up with tennis star Todd Woodbridge, Charlie Swan of Istabraq fame and Paul Casey to shoot 11 under.

While JP McManus has refused to set a target, it is widely assumed he hopes to exceed the €19 million that accrued from the event five years ago.

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