Sea of umbrellas as golf fans brave rain at Open

The kaleidoscope of umbrellas was as varied as the accents beneath them as fans from around the world braved the rain on the second day of The Open’s return to Northern Ireland.

The melting pot of nationalities among the tens of thousands who descended on Portrush for the famous championship was a marker of just how many eyes are on the Causeway Coast this week.

The only other time The Open was played at Royal Portrush, in 1951, it was won by flamboyant Englishman Max Faulkner.

Sixty-eight years on, Bill Wood, from Louth in Lincolnshire, reflected on a notable claim to fame as he arrived for The Open’s second outing on the testing seaside links.

Crowds watch Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy on the 7th tee during day two of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club
Crowds watch Rory McIlroy on the 7th tee (Niall Carson/PA)

“I played Max Faulkner back in the mid-70s,” he said.

“There was a course in Lincolnshire that had been redesigned and Dai Rees (former Ryder Cup captain) and Max Faulkner and myself played an exhibition match to open it. He was probably in his late fifties/early sixties then, it was great.

“Him winning The Open was a wonderful achievement because I think shortly before that he had been thinking of giving up the game.”

A handy golfer himself in his day, Mr Wood, who was attending The Open with wife Yvonne, said he was just pipped by the champion golfer back in 1973.

“He shot 71, I shot 72 but I beat Dai Rees,” he smiled.

Justyna Hudson flew from New Hampshire with husband Daren to celebrate a landmark birthday at The Open.

Wearing a sash and plastic tiara with 50 emblazoned on each, the keen golfer admitted to spending “a lot of money” in the merchandise tent before heading out to root for some US stars.

“We were hoping Tiger (Woods) had done a little better,” she said.

Crowds shelter from the rain during day two of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club
Crowds shelter from the rain (David Davies/PA)

“I feel badly for Rory (McIlroy) in front of the home crowd, my heart hurts for him for that.”

Her husband said he was a fan of the “old timers”, particularly his namesake Darren Clarke, who but for a disastrous seven on the last was set to make the halfway cut.

“I have an affiliation with Clarkey for sure,” he said.

As Co Westmeath’s Shane Lowry marched to the top of the leaderboard during Friday afternoon, the roars could be heard back in Mullingar.

Richard Gordon travelled from his home in Dublin having booked a ticket a full year ago.

“I was pretty fast off the mark getting a ticket,” he said.

McIlroy and Woods’s failure to contend was not about to spoil his day.

“It’s disappointing, yes, but the championship is bigger than anybody,” he said.

Michael Addley, from Carrickfergus in Co Antrim, who owns his own golf apparel business Rock Solid, said he was struck by the international make-up of the galleries.

“It’s brilliant hearing the many accents and languages from around the world and shows the world what our wee country has to offer,” he said.

Out on the course on a day where the sun did sometimes trump the showers, US multiple major winner Jordan Spieth earned one local admirer when he hit a shot awry on the 14th and immediately apologised to his caddie Michael Greller for his mistake.

The Republic Of Ireland’s Shane Lowry tees off the 16th during day two of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club
Shane Lowry tees off the 16th (David Davies/PA)

“Oh, he’s a very polite boy isn’t he,” she observed.

Back at the first hole, a Scottish steward raised plenty of chuckles below the brollies as he joked about the fate of McIlroy’s opening drive the day before, a ball that struck an unsuspecting fan’s mobile phone on its way out of bounds.

“This is the danger zone by the way,” he cautioned those standing in the same spot awaiting the Co Down star on Friday.

“As long as you haven’t got an iPhone you’ll be OK.

“I can’t believe all the Irish that were over here yesterday and no-one kicked it back in.”

Steve Waddelove, from Formby in Merseyside, has visited every course on The Open rota bar one.

“This is right up there, this is probably the best I think,” he said of Portrush. “We just love the event so much we try and go wherever it is. It’s fantastic.”

Mr Waddelove and his wife were following their local favourite, Southport’s Tommy Fleetwood, as he moved into contention.

“Tommy is our local hero from back home,” he said.

His wife Christine, originally from Bangor, Co Down, said she never thought she would see the day The Open returned to her homeland.

“When I was growing up in the 1970s with the Troubles, it seemed a long way off that anything like this would happen and now it’s fantastic,” she said.

Chris Welcome, from Brereton in Staffordshire, was in Portrush courtesy of a surprise 60th birthday present from wife Debbie.

“The golf is tough here,” said the Lichfield Golf and Country Club member.

“I play myself but I’d be looking at scoring probably 120 around here.”

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