There was a spectacular start to the 2017 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation at the stunning Portstewart Golf Club today (July 5th). 52 teams packed with celebrities and professional golfers got to grips with the challenges the links course provided.
The 12 Dubai Duty Free teams were led around by Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, Colm McLoughlin as he joined 2015 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open champion Søren Kjeldsen for his round. It was the Dubai Duty Free team led by professional golfer Padraig Harrington and featuring Sharon Smurfit, Michael Smurfit Jnr and Emmet Savage that won the morning competition finishing on 29 under. Sharon Smurfit, who is the Director of Golf at The K Club also had the longest drive for ladies. The evening Pro Am winning team was led by Japanese professional Hideto Tanihara who played with Northern Ireland football manager Michael O’Neil, Nick Mullen and Jimmy Patsos. They brought in a phenomenal score of 35 under.
Some of the most famous names in sport were on the course to play in the curtain-raiser event, including tournament host Rory McIlroy who had five on this team including JP McManus, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, Champion Jockey AP McCoy and businessman Dermot Desmond! Speaking after the pro am, Rory joked that as they had five on their team of course they couldn’t win but added, “it was great fun nonetheless!”.
Other well-known faces spotted on the course were 50 Shades of Grey actor Jamie Dornan, actor Aidan Quinn, comedian James Nesbitt, television personality Vernon Kay, rugby player Stephen Ferris, and former Westlife star, singer/songwriter Shane Filan.
Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, said; “That was a great event to kick off the whole weekend here in Portstewart for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, and I think the standard of golf played out on the course today was a credit to those who competed. It’s obvious from playing the course that this is going to challenge each and every player out there, and whoever emerges as the winner will have to play some truly top-class golf. At Dubai Duty Free we are proud to continue our sponsorship of this great event into its third year, and I’m sure this year will be just as good as what we have witnessed in Royal County Down in 2015 and The K Club, in County Kildare, in 2016.”
Speaking after the prize presentations were made, Paul McGinley complimented the course, the members of Portstewart Golf Club and said, “When I was young growing up in Dublin the big super stars of the day would play in The Irish Open. Now, we can see that this tournament is once again enjoying a resurgence. Rory McIlroy made this happen together with Colm McLoughlin of Dubai Duty Free.” He then went on to say, that Rory McIlroy was a true superstar in the golfing world before thanking Dubai Duty Free for their support of the tournament, “Colm, you are the Rory McIlroy of your business,” he said, “Dubai Duty Free is a huge operation, we are grateful for your sponsorship and interest in this tournament and we are proud you are Irish!”
A spectacular opening ceremony was held following the Pro Am, kicking off the week’s events in brilliant style as popular Irish indie rock band Two Door Cinema Club got the crowd going with some of their most popular hits. Attention now turns to the main attraction of the week as the 2017 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation tees off early on Thursday morning with Rory McIlroy aiming to defend his title.