Weather Gods smile on Ballyliffin as Donegal shows itself off to the world

Weather Gods smile on Ballyliffin as Donegal shows itself off to the world

Ballyliffin was resplendent as it showcased the very best that Donegal has to offer during the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open last week.

There was nothing but praise being heaped on the Inishowen venue after one of the most successful ever golf events was hosted without a hitch.

The course, despite there being little or no wind, still proved a real test for the cream of European golfers. And for the spectators it was the ideal venue with vantage points all over the course.

The only downside to a magnificent week in which some 94,000 passed through the gates, was the absence of an Irish golfer among the leaders from the end of Day 1.

Padraig Harrington and Shane Lowry put up their hand on the opening day, but both fell away, with Harrington missing the cut after taking a double bogey on his final hole on Day 2.

Rory McIlroy had huge galleries on each of his four days, but his putter remained cold and he was some 12 shots off the pace when the race was run.

Even though there were no Irish involved, the drama on the final day could not have been greater with Scot Russell Knox holing from 40 feet on the 18th to get in the play-off and then repeating the act to take the title on the first play-off hole. You couldn’t write it better.

But while the golf was top class, it was just part of what was a real festival of sport, music and craic.

The laid-back Donegal style suited both the weather and the game. Any worries about the remoteness of Ballyliffin to host such an event were well and truly buried.

But what was truly magnificent was the TV footage that was sent around the world - you just couldn’t buy that sort of advertising.

The spectators came from all parts of the county and the country, some attending an event of this kind for the first time in their lives. I ran into Mickey (Billy) Doherty and his son Eamonn in the tented village. Mickey wouldn’t be regarded as a connoisseur of golf, but he was sitting back, enjoying a pint and watching the golf and soccer on the big screen.

Many, like Mickey, had left home around 6 a.m. to avoid the traffic. But there was no need. The parking facilities at the course must have been the best the European Tour ever encountered.

When I arrived around 8.15 on Saturday morning, I was able to get a parking space not more than 100m from the entrance gate. It was unreal. I have been to Opens at Royal Co. Down and the K Club and they used Park and Rides from miles away.

Then there was the viewing spots for spectators. On top of the bank overlooking the 7th hole, you could take in four holes at any one time; just a magnificent amphitheatre.

The views of the 18th and 9th holes were magnificent and the stretch along the 17th and 18th fairways were just ideal for those interested in walking just a short distance.

Hats off to John Farren and his staff and all involved with the organising committee. An awful lot of effort has gone into this event and hopefully the fruits of their labour will come their way.

They certainly deserve all the plaudits after a truly memorable occasion for the club and for the county in general.