Oh God, here we go again. I’m pleased that Darren Clarke as a fellow-Tyrone-man, a fellow-Ulsterman and a fellow-Irishman has scooped the British Open golf title. It’s a game too riddled with silly jargon - birdies and eagles and bogeys - to be of much interest to me, but if someone’s going to win, it’s nice to have a compatriot do the business. And yes, he has had some hard times, although the media pressed that button so often it was embarrassing.
And what do I mean by that ‘Oh God’ bit at the top there? It’s the tourism thing. I heard Arlene Foster on radio this morning, talking about how much the Clarke-McIlroy-McDowell wins would mean for tourism. A month or two ago we had government officials in the south talking about how much the visit of QE2 would mean for tourism. Where do these guys get their ideas? I watched Muhammed Ali over the years of his fame with near-adoration and not once did I ever say to myself “I must visit where he comes from”. I’ve watched QE2 visit umpteen countries over the years and not once have I ever felt even a tiny itch to get on a plane and go to the same place.
“Ah but this is golf!” you say. Yes I know it’s golf. And I know people truly admire the skills of Clarke and Co. But are golfers under the impression that they’ll become better if they play where Clarke or McIlroy or McDowell started out? In fact the three Irish players – four, if you go back to Padraig Harrington – as professionals spend very little time playing golf in Ireland. They’re all over the world – Dubai, Arizona, Britain – far more often than they’re at home. So except they’re very thick, there can be few golfers who think playing on the same course as Clarke or whoever means they’ll be better.
So give us a break, would you? If you think QE2’s visit was a great idea (which I don't), try to come up with a better reason for it than some half-assed fantasy about tourism. Likewise, rejoice in Clarke’s win – he seems a nice big lump of a fellah - and the other three, and we should be proud of them all. But drop the crock of crap about it bringing a bonanza of tourists to Ireland. It won’t.