Adare course a winner, says Harrington

THERE were many winners on the first day of the JP McManus pro-am at Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort yesterday.

And without doubt, the Robert Trent Jones senior designed course was chief among them.

True, South African Trevor Immelman shot a record eight under par 64 and red figures abounded but this time it was set up for a pro-am and as a result, the fairways were generously wide, the rough negligible and the pins for the most part were located in the middle of the greens.

The professionals agreed that it could be presented in a manner that would make it almost as formidable as the Palmer Course at The K-Club and in all probability a whole lot more enjoyable.

Pádraig Harrington took a seven at the long 7th hole where he put his second in a lake and still finished on 67. He said the course was perfect for the occasion.

"If they held a tournament here, they would have to tighten it up. It was interesting today, a couple of times I hit it in the rough and managed to pull out a wood. The last couple of weeks I was pulling out a sand wedge. It was great. It was actually a joy.

"They could make it a lot tougher but I don't think they could make a golf course as tough as The K-Club. For the type of course it is, it's as tough as it gets. It has wind, very tight fairways, very tight trees and very heavy rough. Look at the 17th, it was one of the toughest drives on the tour last year and they still narrowed the fairway by eight or ten yards this year. Is that a good thing? That's the argument. I don't know what they're thinking of except to make it tougher. It makes for a great Ryder Cup although it will be easier then because it's matchplay."

Trevor Immelman is a South African so the Ryder Cup doesn't interest him. But he was thrilled with yesterday's round and quipped: "this was the first time I had a look at the course. Maybe I should play courses blind and after a few pints of Guinness as well. But it was a fun day. We are here for charity and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I thought it was an incredible course in fantastic conditions.

Immelman, who pipped Harrington for the TPC of Europe last year, shot eight birdies and no bogeys to lead by three from the Irishman, Luke Donald and Tiger Woods. The world number one was out there battling for all his worth in spite of suffering from fever and jet lag and he, too, got round without dropping a stroke. The confident expectation is that he will be in a lot better fettle today.

Next best of the Irish were Graeme McDowell and David Higgins on three under with Paul McGinley two under Peter Lawrie on one below par.

McGinley was another extolling the virtues of the course: "It's a gem. As an Irishman, I am very proud," he said.

However, this occasion is all about raising vast sums for mid-west charities and the players and spectators enjoying themselves. Harrington more than any other attested to this objective, a point emphatically made by his admission that: "my pen ran out of ink after nine holes. That's a record although I don't know how many signatures that would be. It was a new pen and wasn't writing after nine holes. It was just fantastic out there. Imagine more than 20,000 people for a pro-am. JP has brought a great assembly of players for a worthy cause and this must be one of the most lovely places in Ireland. It's my first time playing the course and it's majestic. There is not too much pressure, not too much stress, it's a course where you would wish to come out and play time and time again. The charity side of the event is unbelievable. They raise phenomenal funds."

Of course, for the majority of the contestants, this is all about the team event and leading the way are JP's brother Gerry McManus, Noel Nash and Denis O'Brien, all qualifiers and representing St Gabriels Centre. They partnered the left-handed Australian Richard Green and finished on 18 under par 54, three better than former Tipperary hurling star Nicky English, Larry Kirby and David Magnier from Grange Stud and who played yesterday with Christy O'Connor Junior; another qualifying team, Lourdes Invalid Fund, comprised of Dave Hickey, Ivan O'Gorman and Eamon Kirby whose pro partner was Lee Westwood and Limerick Youth Service (Owen McManus, Billy Power and Timmy Flynn with pro Scott McCarron).

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