US president will take to Co Clare links ahead of his chief of staff and Irish ambassador|Simon Carswell in Doonbeg||
The golfing banter in Donald Trump’s running “four balls” series at Doonbegcontinued as soon as the US president stepped off his Marine One helicopter on Wednesday.
“Am I stuck with Joe?” Mr Trump said as arrived at the west Clare golf course, joshing with Joe Russell, the managing director of his family’s Doonbeg hotel and golf resort, about his playing partner for Friday’s round.
“We said, yeah,” Russell told The Irish Times, with a smile.
“It is a bit of banter we have going. It will be me and him versus Brian and Brendan,” the long-time Doonbeg manager said, referring to the resort’s golf pro-Brian Shaw and director of membership Brendan Murphy.
It will be Trump’s third round of golf at Doonbeg since he bought the resort in 2014 but his first as US president.
Russell has said that the three Trump employees won’t be giving the boss free shots, nor does he seek any. Trump is, Shaw says, “a very solid golfer” who “hits it very well off the tee and a good iron player”.
The golfers would want to be accurate hitters of the ball; there are army snipers on protective duty in the dunes overlooking the 400-acre course and surrounding hotel resort.
The prospect of rainy weather on Friday morning raised the possibility of Trump’s first round of golf at Doonbeg as president being brought forward to Thursday evening.
A top source in Doonbeg dismissed this as “fake news”.
Shaw – who Trump likes to refer to as “my golf pro” – said that the match series was “even stevens” going into Friday after Trump and Russell beat Shaw and Murphy in the last game.
“It is a great bit of craic. As the man says, we have a right giggle during it and niggle each other and that type of stuff. We’ll start niggling each other. We will start on the driving range and it won’t stop,” said Shaw.
Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s acting chief of staff, told The Irish Times as he left Morrissey’s pub in Doonbeg after a good feed, washed down with pints of Guinness on Wednesday night, that he hoped to play on Friday too.
Mulvaney has invited the Irish ambassador to the US Dan Mulhall to play in another four-ball on Friday. The diplomat hopes that the sun will shine on the US president and that the cameras catch him hitting his first ball.
“One value is for American TV to get shots of the president teeing off in Ireland and the sunshine. If the rain is coming in horizontally, it won’t make such great television,” Mulhall said.
What did make great TV was Trump’s sons Eric and Donald jnr strolling up Doonbeg’s main street on Wednesday night on their pub crawl as they mingled with locals, posing for selfies and buying drinks for four pubs full of people who were jubilant at their impromptu visit?
Staff at the golf resort are said to have poked plenty of fun at Murphy for looking like a secret service agent as he protected the president’s two sons on their walkabout from inquisitive TV reporters.
The Trump brothers praised the people of Clare as “incredible” for the support the community has shown the resort. They claimed that Irish support for their father’s visit “outweighed” any protests.
Eric said that the support of the local community for the resort had been “unbelievable”.
“It is everything,” his brother Donald jnr said. “It has been incredible. It always has been from day one when we took a chance on Ireland.”
Asked about the protests against their father’s two-night visit to Ireland, the brothers said that they have been seeing “a lot of American flags” even on their visit to London earlier this week and “a lot of Irish flags” in Co Clare.
“The press won’t talk about it. They won’t report on it. They totally ignore it but it outweighed the protests by 10 to one,” said Donald jnr, echoing his father’s regular claims downplaying opposition towards him.
The brothers went further, castigating the media from behind the counter in Tubridy’s bar – their third stop of the night – for trying “to find the one guy who will say something bad and then he is the star of the show”.
Donald jnr said they could not find anyone like that in Doonbeg, to cheers from the people in the pub.
With the US flag draped on the wall behind them in Tubridy’s bar, Eric said: “We came off Air Force One earlier and everywhere we looked we saw all American flags with Irish flags. That’s a beautiful thing.”
Donald jnr and Eric will miss playing around today; the brothers flew back to the US on Thursday.
Hugh McNally, the owner of Morrissey’s pub and a distant relative of Trump’s vice-president Mike Pence, described the bar tab picked up by the Trump brothers – and sent up to the golf resort after the pub crawl – as “very reasonable”.
“These are rural Ireland prices, not Dublin prices,” he said.