SPORTING occasions as successful and large-scale as the Irish Open at Royal Portrush tend to provide an abundance of happy memories for those in attendance.
However, few could match the experience enjoyed by Andrew Connolly.
The 15-year-old Portadown College student won a competition promoted by Dale Farm to take part in a Pro-Am event around the famous course the day before the start of the official event.
Connolly, the current juvenile captain at Carrickblacker, was matched up with Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee alongside two other winners of the superb prize.
“My older sister, Judith, sent in the 100-word entry on why playing in a Pro-Am would mean so much,” said Connolly. “I didn’t know anything about it until word came in I had won.
“That was on the Friday before the Irish Open so I had a few days of nerves before the actual competition.
“It was a brilliant experience and Thongchai was so nice, chatting away and offering advice.
“I will certainly take some of those tips for my own game.
“I hit a few daft shots but went around in nine over par which wasn’t bad.
“We then had a meal organised by Dale Farm, plus finished with special goodie bags.
“My family also had purchased tickets to each day of play in the Irish Open so that alone was great watching those top players make it look so easy.”
Other winners represented the Ballyclare and Downpatrick clubs.
“With the Pro-Am being such a hotly-anticipated element of the Irish Open, we had a fantastic amount of entries, this made choosing winners a difficult task,” said Dale Farm’s head of marketing, Brian Beattie. “We’re certain that Andrew, Curtis and Barry were worthy of the top prize, having demonstrated their skill and enthusiasm for the sport in their entries.
“Let’s hope they picked up some valuable tips from the fantastic Thongchai.
“We’re very proud to have supported this year’s Irish Open and, on behalf of Dale Farm, I hope our competition winners always remember their experiences of this world-class sporting event here in Northern Ireland.”