Donald Trump's golf round: ‘No politics, no business, no money. It was just us talking about golf’
Trump beckons over Clohanes schoolchildren who sang for him at Doonbeg course
US president Donald Trump with schoolchildren in Doonbeg: “Come on, come on, let them up,” he said to the Secret Service agents. Photograph: Abbi Shanahan/Brian Shanahan/Reuters
“Your future employees over there, Mr President,” Joe Russell, the manager of Trump’s Doonbeg resort, told the US president, pointing to the kids gathered behind the 10th hole of the West Clare golf course on Friday.
Speaking to The Irish Times after their round, Russell said Trump “instigated the whole thing”, beckoning the children over with a “come on, come on, let them up” to the Secret Service agents protecting him.
The Doonbeg manager prompted Aideen O’Mahoney, the principal of Clohanes National School who brought the flag-waving children to the course, to get the kids to sing My Lovely Rose of Clare.
“We were all blown away by that,” said Doonbeg’s golf pro Brian Shaw, another of Trump’s playing partners.
“It was breathtaking,” said Brendan Murphy, Doonbeg’s director of membership and the final member of the presidential “four ball”.
Bacon and eggs
Outside of his White House staff, no other people spent as much time with Trump during his Irish visit as these three. They started at 8.45am over a breakfast of bacon and eggs, and finished on the 18th green at 3pm.
“There was no politics, no business, no money . . . It was just us talking about golf,” said Shaw.
The Trump-Russell team beat Shaw and Murphy “3&2” in the third match, sealing victory on the 16th. Russell won it with a four-foot putt. “Well done, partner,” Trump told him.
“Joe Russell and the president put quite a beating on us,” conceded golf pro Shaw.
The most memorable moments of the round had nothing to do with golf, however.
Murphy’s standout moment was Trump getting him to call over Thomas Leyne, an American Vietnam veteran and retired police officer from Boston married to a local woman, who has a house by the 12th hole.
“Even I got emotional,” said the long-time Doonbeg employee of Leyne’s reaction to meeting Trump.
The three players felt several other big statements were made during Trump’s Friday round.
“He could have picked anybody in the world to play golf with – movie stars or professional golfers - and stand up on the first tee to make a big promotion, but he took out three employees,” said Shaw.
“That statement to everybody working here and in the village means so much.”
Regardless of how some of them might view him or his politics, locals sees Trump’s investment as critical to the economic wellbeing of the area, ensuring grandparents do not lose children and grandchildren to the cities.
“From a family and community point of view, that is extremely important,” said Russell.
Another statement were the images of a sun-drenched west coast of Ireland beamed around the world by Trump’s visit. Some members said relations saw Doonbeg on TV in New Zealand as a result of the trip.
“The advertisement today, that golf course, the ocean – how long would Fáilte Ireland be spending money before they could get that amount of coverage all over the world?” asked Russell.
He said Trump’s visit could be viewed negatively, as the president promoting his golf resort, or positively, sending a postcard around the world.
“You can enjoy it and seize the moment or choose to take the other path. The entire week here has seen people embracing all that is positive,” said Russell.
According to three men, Trump adored the American flags displayed by locals around the course. At one point, he wanted to meet a farmer who had Irish and US flags hosted high on his farm by the 12th hole.
“’Is that guy around?” the US president asked, excitedly.
Trump responded enthusiastically too to the reports of the reception his sons received on their Wednesday night pub crawl through Doonbeg village.
“He loved it,” said Russell, “loved it.”
Doonbeg’s golf course redesigner Martin Hawtree, who has worked with the Trumps for years and joined them for a few holes, said he was worried when Trump found himself in a bunker on the sixth until Trump got out of it in one shot and then complimented him: “Great bunker, Martin.”
“He is the president now but he wasn’t the president in the buggy when I was travelling with him,” he said.
“He’s just Mr Trump, same man.”