Portrush return a homecoming for O’Grady

Darren Clarke (left) and European Tour Chief Executive, George O’Grady

THE return of the Irish Open to Royal Portrush signals a special kind of homecoming for European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady.
O’Grady has close connections to the North West. His mother’s family hail from Portrush and he has fond memories of childhood days spent at the White Rocks.
“My uncle, Dr William Hill was a member at Royal Portrush for many years and I was a junior member when I was nine or 10 I think,” explained O’Grady who has masterminded the European Tour’s worldwide expansion in recent years.
“My father came from Cork. He met my mother at Trinity College Dublin and they married after the war with both of them going on to become doctors.
“My father was in the British Royal Airforce and was stationed in Cyprus. Because of the troubles there it was deemed too dangerous and we were sent home. That was where I first learned to play golf.”
O’Grady later moved to England but he returned to Portrush regularly for school holidays and later competed in the Ulster Open on a couple of occasions.
“My father retired to Lytham St Annes and that is where I began to play the game properly, getting down to around a five handicap,” added McGrady.

“I came over to play twice but failed to make the cut for the match-play stages. But my parents thought I was a good player because I led the qualifiers one day in a gale.

“I went round in 81 on the Dunluce and that turned out to be the leading score. That was only because the good players were on the Valley that day. The high handicappers were out on the Dunluce with me.”
O’Grady can’t hide his delight at the return of the tournament to Northern Ireland and claimed that he found the official announcement back in January as ‘quite emotional.
“I knew the reception for the event would be very warm but I didn’t realise it would be so great in terms of public reaction,” he added.
“Our ticket sales have been extraordinary much better than we anticipated. It has been inspiring to see how the political leaders North and South have come together to make this event happen. In a golfing sense Ireland truly is united and I must commend the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Tourism Ireland for how they have got their message out to the world.
“If ever there was a right time to come to the North, surely this is the year, when Darren is Open Champion, Rory top of the tree, Graeme McDowell playing brilliantly and Harrington having inspired them all.”

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