Golfers and Doonbeg prepare to tee up for Trump’s arrival

West Clare locals see banter and benefits through disruptions from a presidential visit


The golf professional at Donald Trump’s Irish resort says he won’t hold back on teasing him when they play on Friday just because he is the president of the United States now.

The last time Brian Shaw played with Trump at Doonbeg he was just a property tycoon and reality TV star.

Trump and Joe Russell, the resort’s manager, beat Shaw and his playing partner, Doonbeg’s membership director Brendan Murphy, in their last game. The banter was good then, he said. “We all rib each other. There’s no holding back – bit of a dig here and there, harmless enough stuff,” said Shaw.

They play for pride, not money, he says.

Irish golfers Pádraig Harrington and Shane Lowry were rumoured to have been invited by the White House to play with Trump when he takes to the course after his official engagements in London, Normandy and Shannon.

But Trump’s staff at Doonbeg expect the president to round up the same fourball again.

Shaw described the US president’s golf game as “sharp enough” given he has played all his life. From “a technical point of view” Trump keeps the ball low, which suits “links golf” on a coastal course, says Shaw. “He understands the intricacies of links golf, the little bunt and runs,” he said.

Quick game

The golf pro expects the US president to play a quick game as he rarely likes to play over three and a half hours and he has heard the president prefers his security staff to keep their distance while he plays. “There is only so much distance that they can keep,” he said.

Elsewhere in Doonbeg, it was hard for the large numbers of gardaí dispatched for Trump’s visit to keep their distance from locals, despite the West Clare hamlet’s reputation as Ireland’s longest village. Rita McInerney has been serving largely visiting gardaí and journalists at the West Atlantic Break cafe.

“We had a few tourists but not too many. The guards have been very good at letting people through,” she said.

Hugh McNally, owner of Morrissey’s pub, said he counted 38 guards on one mile of road outside Doonbeg. “I went to bed last night safe in the knowledge there were 100 guards patrolling around me. I never felt safer in this village,” he said, next to his Jack Russell “Pepper” keeping guard in the pub’s window over gardaí outside.

Supt John Galvin, based in nearby Kilrush, said this was the biggest Garda operation west Clare has ever seen. It was “a policing challenge” that required gardaí to be drawn from adjoining regions and nationally.

That was on land. Out at sea, the Irish Naval Service has dispatched the LE Niamh to Doughmore Bay next to Trump’s resort and the LE Eithne to the Shannon Estuary.

Local businesses are willing to tolerate the disruption if the publicity brings long-term benefits to Doonbeg.

“This is putting us on the world map,” said Caroline Kennedy, owner of The Igoe Inn.

The locals are hoping Trump will drop down to the village during his three days in the area.

An opening in the packed presidential schedule may present itself on Thursday or Friday, it is heard said.

Kennedy says all the publicans in Doonbeg are close and none would begrudge any of the others receiving a visit. “Whoever gets the honour, we will let them have it,” she said.

Inside her pub, an American couple John McGrath and his wife Babs seem slightly bemused their nine-day visit to the ancestral home of his great-great grandfather coincides with their president’s.

“I think it’s great fun,” said John, who voted for Trump.

“I am unhappy,” said Babs, who did not and views the protests against Trump’s visit as “good” for free speech. “I would rather it to be peaceful in Doonbeg.”