Festivities will have a taste of Irish
Now, at long last, comes the Ryder Cup - the long awaited event that will forever put Michigan on the map as one of the world's most significant golf destinations.
Already, though, if you can believe it, the anticipation is building for the next Ryder Cup Matches, which will be held in September of 2006, at the K Club, outside Dublin, Ireland, on 500 acres of County Kildare countryside along the River Liffey. It will mark the first time in 36 editions that the Ryder Cup will be staged anywhere in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland.
The Irish will have a decided presence this week here in Oakland County, at the matches and in the community. Failte Ireland, otherwise known as the Irish Tourist Board, will be hosting a VIP and media reception at, appropriately, Dick O'Dow's Public House in downtown Birmingham, and Irish stars Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke, and Paul McGinley are the three Irish-born members of the 12-man European team who will try do make their presence known on the golf course.
A big moment for a local "Paddy" will come during Thursday's opening ceremonies at Oakland Hills Country Club. Richard McMullan, of Huntington Woods, has been asked to sing the Irish national anthem, and has accepted the honor of doing so.
McMullan founded the popular local Irish band "Blackthorn" in 1994, and he and "the boys," Fred Klein, Dennis Green and Gary McMullan, have been entertaining area Irish music lovers for 20 years. McMullan will be accompanied by an instrumental backing track when he sings the anthem, "The Soldier's Song," in English.
The Ryder Cup opening ceremonies will run from 4-6 p.m. and will be attended by both the American and European teams, as well as dignitaries from around the world, including, possibly, President George Bush. The Golf Channel will televise a taped presentation of the opening ceremonies from 8-10 p.m. Thursday evening.
Until now, McMullan says the biggest exposure for Blackthorn has been performing for J.P. McCarthy at his annual St. Patrick's Day Party, a traditional show that WJR has continued to invite Blackthorn to perform during each year.
McMullan is donating his talent during the Ryder Cup opening ceremonies for the honor of representing his country here in America. Make no mistake, Blackthorn is no "stage Irish" band - they are accomplished musicians who perform authentic, important Irish ballads and reels.
The full compliment of Blackthorn's talent can be enjoyed regularly at O'Mara's in Berkley and Cowley's in Farmington Hills. For more information on Blackthorn's performance schedule, phone (248) 691-0130 or log on to www.Blackthorn1.com.
Unlike Oakland Hills CC, anyone can play at the K Club. I'll be visiting the Irish resort soon after this week's Ryder Cup Matches and will file a full report on the golf course in a coming column. Hearing Blackthorn's music and getting caught up in this week's Ryder Cup festivities will surely inspire you to visit the beloved, festive and soulful Emerald Isle!
For those all riled up after watching the Ryder Cup in person or on NBC television, there is a special opportunity to play golf the following day. Next Monday's "Celebrate the Cup" outing, Sept. 20 at Edgewood Country Club in Commerce Township, will benefit the innovate and effective Detroit Midnight Golf Program, a non-profit that reaches out to disadvantaged and at-risk youth ages 17-22.
"From going nowhere to going to college - this is the miracle that Midnight Golf has been able to perform for a growing number of our golf participants," explains Renee Fluker, founder and executive director of the program.
Using golf as a metaphor for life, approximately 30 youth participate in each 32-week program, which is taught by Michigan PGA professionals.
"The same traits that make a golfer a winner - honesty, integrity, discipline, patience and courage plus a lot of hard work are the same skills needed to succeed in life," explains PGA Professional Randy Tylo, one of the golf instructors.
Celebrate the Cup will begin with a shotgun start at 12:30, and the outing cost is $1,000 per-foursome. WDIV's Rhonda Walker will emcee the festivities after golf. Phone (248) 624-5341 or log on to www.MidnightGolf.org for more information or to compete.
Michael Patrick Shiels, golf columnist for the Observer & Eccentric Newspapers, may be contacted at Mshiels@aol.co