Harrington wants Irish Open party

By Brian Keogh

Padraig Harrington wants a party atmosphere at Adare Manor when he bids to end a 25-year wait for a home winner of the new-look Irish Open.

The Dubliner, 35, believes he has a golden opportunity to smash an Irish hoodoo that dates back to John O'Leary's famous win at Portmarnock in 1982.

And he hopes that the fans turn out "in droves" when the €2.5 million spectacular hits the five-star Limerick resort from May 17-20.

Adare Manor boss Tom Kane has gone out on his own this year and while there is no title sponsor he has attracted support from the cream of Irish industry with a raft of 'Proud Partners' and official sponsors boosting the prize fund by €300,000 to €2.5 million.

And after romping to victory in the JP McManus Pro-Am at Adare two years ago, Harrington can't wait to break out the bubbly west of the Shannon in what has been dubbed The People's Open.

He beamed: "The Irish Open is definitely something I want on my CV. It is a big title and definitely something you want to win. No question.

"At this stage I want any Irish title. John O’Leary won in 1982, 25 years ago. But this is a great opportunity for me. We are coming to a golf course that suits me. I am looking forward to it without a doubt.

"The golf course that suits your eye is a delight to play. There is something about it that makes you feel comfortable on it. The whole experience of Adare is like that.

"From the minute to you get to the town, whether you are inside the estate or not, there is a fantastic atmosphere and it is a wonderful place to be. That all adds to the experience of the week."

Speaheaded by former US marine corps pilot Kane, the Irish Open has a new partner and sponsorship set up this year with Fáilte Ireland, McInerney, Michael McNamara & Co and Pallas Foods stumping up €300,000 each.

Official sponsors Audi Ireland, Limerick County Council, Rolex and Shannon Development have added another €150,000 each - increasing the prize fund by €300,000 to €2.5 million.

Brown Thomas, Cutter & Buck, Dooley Car Rentals, Philips, Ricoh and Waterford Crystal have also come on board as Official Suppliers.

Defending his solo approach, Kane said: "I am of the strong belief that the national championship deserves, and is worthy, of a standalone brand.

"I believe that we should therefore operate in the same manner as The Open Championship and Masters Tournament and not be reliant on a title sponsor."

Less than 12 months after the Ryder Cup at the K Club, Harrington hopes that the fans come out in droves to support the People's Open.

He added: "I think the Ryder Cup could have a knock on effect. In Limerick the fans came out and supported the JP McManus Pro-Am and I think they will come out and support the Irish Open.

"With The Ryder Cup, I think it had a big effect on the golfing public but a bigger effect on the non-golfing public of Ireland. Hopefully it will bring them out, get more non-golfers out for the Irish Open.

"Maybe people saw the Ryder Cup but were unable to get tickets and now want to come and have a look and see what all this fuss about this game is all about."

An elite field in being assembled by the European Tour with Dane Bjorn determined to defend the title - and enjoy the party.

With a festival planned for the picturesque town of Adare during Irish Open week, he's hoping that the electric atmosphere will inspire him to a sterling title defence.

Bjorn said: "I think it is great that the Irish Open is going back to the west coast of Ireland. There is always a certain expectation when the Tour goes there.

"It has always been one of the best supported tournaments we play. Wherever we go in the world, there is always a feeling this one is the People’s Open.

"The Irish people always come out in force. The Ryder Cup in particular showed how much the Irish people get behind the game of golf.

"From a players’ perspective, there is nothing better than to play golf in Ireland. It has this people’s feeling about it which is great.

"There is a feeling around the whole week and it doesn’t just involve what happens on the golf course.

"It is the whole ambience of the place day and night and it grows into a great event and always has done. Being on the west coast of Ireland it has even more that feeling.

"When we visit small towns, it has that big buzz about it and it becomes a bit different to a regular Tour stop."

Ryder Cup hero McGinley won the Irish PGA at Adare in 2004 and believes it will be a fantastic test after improvements added 300 yards to the Trent Jones Jnr track.

He said: "I regard Adare Manor as the best inland course in Ireland. It is a bold statement considering the wonderful courses we have in Ireland but in my mind it stands out above the rest.

"We can also expect a lot of support from the Irish spectators. They came out in droves for the JP McManus Pro-Am a couple of years ago and I expect they will be no different for the Irish Open."