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Full House at Adare Manor

Why so many top Pros are playing in the J P McManus International Pro-Am at Adare Manor

Posted Jul 01, 2010 by Dermot Gilleece

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A remarkable relationship which was cemented 11 years ago, will have proved the test of time when Tiger Woods competes next Monday and Tuesday in the J P McManus International Pro-Am at Adare Manor, in Co Limerick.  This will be Woods' third appearance in an event which is held every five years and, given his recent problems, is clearly a reflection of the esteem in which he holds McManus.
During one of the official Ryder Cup functions at Brookline in September 1999, McManus and his party were joined by members of the US team, including Woods. It was then that the Irish financier, in his quiet, inimitable way, mentioned a two-day
charity pro-am he would be running at Limerick GC the following summer.  In fact it would be the third staging of the event which had a relatively quiet launch at the same venue in 1990.

"I told Tiger he would be more than welcome to come along," McManus recalled. "My idea was that he could simply drop in as a visitor on one of the days. There would be no question of pressurising him to play."  With that, the world number one responded: "If you're asking me, I'm coming."

Five months later, a mutual friend contacted McManus to the effect that Woods was anxious to know if the pro-am invitation still stood. So, the strongest professional field to be assembled in Ireland since the Canada Cup at Portmarnock in 1960, was
effectively finalised.   As it happened, Woods was victorious, but only after Australia's Stuart Appleby had been disqualified for using a laser distance finder, not realising the pro-am was officially sanctioned by the European Tour.

When I later suggested to Woods that he had won by default, he smiled and unhesitatingly agreed. "Yes," he acknowledged. "He won.  I know he was using a laser but he still did the lowest score.  We all acknowledge that, regardless of the DQ."  Then he added: "But the whole idea was to help out JP and raise money for his charities and the things he likes to do for the people of Ireland, especially the people of Limerick.  And junior golf.

"It was pretty impressive.  And it goes to show you the quality of the person JP is.  He does things for other people that is not generally recognised.  We came together for him.  And for him only."  Seeing McManus as having a very keen sense of his home place - of Limerick and its people - Woods went on:  "We're all kinda that way.  We all love our home town.  He supports his home town, which is obviously very special to him."

The world number one has reason to look on the event as an extremely productive stepping stone, given his Open Championship victories at St Andrews in the following week in 2000 and again in 2005.  A significant change in 2005 was that event was switched from Limerick GC to Adare Manor which is a seriously testing, championship layout designed by Robert Trent Jones.  But for Woods, the feel of the occasion remained the same. 

Now, from being the main attraction in a strictly golfing sense, the world's top player will be something of a curiosity, given the extraordinary turn his life has taken since a low-speed car-crash outside his home in Orlando last November.  Other observers will be looking for signals that his golf game may be returning to the sort of level which could deliver a 15th major championship triumph on the Old Course.

Meanwhile, the 36-hole event has attracted a field of remarkable quality.  No fewer than 12 of the top-15 in the current world rankings will be in action, including the newly-crowned US Open champion, Graeme McDowell, along with Lee Westwood, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, Ian Poulter, Dustin Johnson and, naturally, Padraig Harrington, the winner in 2005.

After his withdrawal from the French Open, this will be McDowell's first competitive appearance since Pebble Beach.  And an indication of how importantly other competitors treat it as an occasion not to be missed, is that Westwood and Rory McIlroy will fulfill their commitment to Adare, but have withdrawn from the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond, later in the week.

Which proves that where some players are concerned, tournament golf is not always about prize money. It can be just as much an enjoyable, social occasion with one's wife or partner, where the financial emphasis is on worthy charities.

-Dermot Gilleece

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