Compiled by PHILIP REID
Darren sees red: And takes a swipe at green activists
An emotional Darren Clarke was in danger of having some dark clouds surround him yesterday as he took a swipe at environmentalists for attempting to block the proposed new golf resort – called Bushmills Dunes – near the Giant’s Causeway.
Of the £100 million (€125 million) project, which was given the green light in February after a decade-long planning process but has since been subjected to a further objection, Clarke said: “It’s been in the planning for 12 years and it’s a 100 million quid project and the National Trust has jumped in and blocked it again after everybody else has passed it.
“They’ve got huge backing from the [Northern Ireland] Assembly, nine million quid, and they’re using that to block the new course. Hopefully it will be resolved. It would be another thing for this area, not just Portrush but all of Northern Ireland to go along with some of the great courses we have. Hopefully they will come to their senses and let the course be built.”
The proposed development on a 365-acre site would include a championship golf course – designed by Scottish architect David McLay-Kidd, who was responsible for Bandon Dunes in the USA – as well as a 120-bedroom five-star hotel.
The investment consortium behind the project has been led by US-based Belfast native Alistair Hanna.
Gift: McIlroy's All Black shirt
Rory McIlroy yesterday took possession of a new piece of apparel that was far removed from the crafted Oakley tops he wears on global fairways.
The world number two was given an All Blacks rugby jersey, personally signed in fluorescent silver marker for McIlroy by New Zealand captain Richie McCaw.
“Thanks, really appreciate it . . . but they gave us some hammering the other day,” said McIlroy to the Kiwi journalist who performed the handing-over honours for the All Black.
Full house: First European Tour event to sell four days
Before a tee-shot was hit in anger, the 2012 Irish Open created history by becoming the first regular European Tour event to be sold out completely over all four days and no cash will be taken at the gate for entry.
A ceiling of 27,000 paying adults a day was set by the tour on health and safety advice, with advance sales breaking all tour records. The crowds in attendance each day will be increased by the number of juniors (Under 16s) who are entitled to free entry once accompanied by a ticket-holding adult.
“The 2012 Irish Open has exceeded all expectations in terms of advance ticket sales. Following the announcement that the last three days were sold out, we had a considerable up-take for Thursday which has culminated in us putting up the sold out signs,” said championship director Antonia Beggs, adding: “We urge spectators not to arrive at the gate in the hope of purchasing tickets, as there will be no further sales for the 2012 Irish Open.”
Cutler's aim: Making up for lost dime
A year ago, when he played as an amateur, Paul Cutler completed four rounds of the Irish Open at Killarney and finished in tied-21st.
Behind him were a list of players that included none other than Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Michael Hoey, to name a few. Of course, Cutler didn’t earn a red cent for his efforts.
Since then, Cutler became the star turn in the Walker Cup for a winning Britain and Ireland team, and subsequently made the move into life as a professional. Playing mostly on the third-tier Europro Tour, the Ulsterman is here on a sponsor’s invite and aiming to make the most of the chance to play for pay in the Irish Open.
“I’m looking forward to the week. It’s been a bit of a learning process and you’ve got to look at it that way. Hopefully, the rewards will come later. I’ve got to keep plugging away,” said Cutler, from nearby Portstewart.