Keith Wood Article

"Something wonderful happened here..."

- by Keith Wood

It comes as no surprise to anyone from Limerick or the Mid-West of Ireland that sport often seems to top the list of priorities. Battle lines are drawn, even mid-marriage, between inter county rivalries in GAA or inter club in rugby. We are a sporting mad centre of a sporting mad nation.

And yet within this manic support lies a respect that is increasingly rare in sport. The respectful silence that welcomes any kicker in a rugby match in Thomond Park is a stark reminder of this phenomenon. Any would-be hecklers are immediately censored bythe crowd. This is Limerick and everyone deserves a fair chance.

The JP McManus Invitational Pro-Am has brought this ethos to its ultimate conclusion. The time, the people, the organisation and quite frankly the money needed to stage this event is without parallel. This is not about one man's dream. This is a local man who recognises the difference a whole area can make if everyone gets involved. Fifty thousand people followed the call, contributed and made it the biggest charity golf event in the world. The golfers flock to the event, indeed many hang on in bated breath hoping to get the call. In the professional golf world this is genuinely unique, where the distanceto the supporter is the length of their swing. Everyone is a part of it.

By the end of the two days I saw some of the American pros chatting to the locals on a first name basis. In an all too security conscious world this easy nature of the golfers is priceless. They have seen in the past what this event can achieve and are eager to embrace it wholeheartedly.

What makes it special for the professional golfers terrifies those of us who possess a more agricultural swing. I admired the trust shown by the spectators but it was sadly misplaced. Balls were driven in to chip vans, car parks and hospitality tents as we comfortably displayed that this was not what we did for a living. But we got a chance to rub shoulders with greatness and that more than compensated for the odd eight on the card and the many excursions in to the River Maigue.

But what tops off the event is JP’s distinct lack of hubris. Something wonderful happened here but you would never know it to look at its creator. The world came to Limerick and JP barely said two words. In his view he didn’t have to. The JP McManus Invitational spoke for itself and everyone who was involved. It was very special and in many ways, very Limerick.

Keith Wood
Former Ireland International Rugby Captain