The Wounded Warriors at Ballybunion Golf Club
15 October 2012
Wounded Warriors Irish Trip
A totally unique trip began today in Shannon Airport, where a group of seriously injured US servicemen and women landed, beginning a 12-day adventure around Ireland.
After the flight from New York's JFK airport, it was straight to the picturesque town of Ballybunion, where thanks to the O'Connor family at Kilcooly's Country House there was a welcome breakfast to fuel the troops ahead of an exciting 18 holes on the Old Course at Ballybunion Golf Club.
The event, which has captured the imagination of the international media, was conceived as a way to put Irish golf in the spotlight stateside, and to help the recoveries of some wounded people in the process. Amazingly, the trip became a reality thanks to the voluntary efforts and incredible generosity of a wide range of Irish businesses, who were all excited about the prospect of being able to promote Ireland abroad and provide the visiting veterans with the experience of a lifetime.
Another, spontaneous, gesture of Irish hospitality occurred on the first day when the non-playing partners of the golfers went for lunch. Stopping in the Listowel Arms, they were greeted by the management who were amazed to hear what had brought them to Ireland. Then, when the group went to pay, they were told that their meal was on the house.
“The response has been incredible,” said Linton Walsh, CEO of Golf Digest Irish Tours, the company responsible for organising the trip. “The event just wouldn't have been possible without the support of everyone across the industry, or without the huge assistance we've gotten from Dr. Tony Lenihan and everyone at Fáilte Ireland. They do so much to promote the Irish tourism industry around the world, and to get their enthusiastic support re-enforced how important and how positive I think this trip is and drove us all to make it the best that it could be.
“It's such a great way to show the best of our country,” added Walsh, “and to help these men and women at the same time. Their stories are incredible; they've been through so much and it means an awful lot to them that people around Ireland are so eager to make their golfing dreams come true.”
Brian O'Callaghan, Head Professional at Ballybunion Golf Club, was equally excited to be a part of this special event.
“It's not a hard thing to do,” said O'Callaghan, who also provided the visitors with a quick lesson in the basics of links golf before their first round. “To have people like that, who've fought in wars and come back with the problems they've come back with, anything you can do for them you should. And it's a great PR boost for ourselves and for Ireland. In the golf industry, American business is huge. Nearly 70% of our business is from the United States. We've actually had three very good years. Obviously, things have been down everywhere, but even when the dollar was weak we had a lot of American visitors. Now people are starting to be optimistic; I think that next year will be a good year for the industry, and things like this and big events like The Gathering are wonderful.”