Brian Keogh: ‘Golf and tourism hit jackpot as McManus seals legacy after €100m investment’

Brian Keogh: ‘Golf and tourism hit jackpot as McManus seals legacy after €100m investment’

JP McManus and Major winner Tiger Woods are good friends. Photo: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE
JP McManus and Major winner Tiger Woods are good friends. Photo: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

JP McManus might be a billionaire with the touch of King Midas when it comes to backing winners.

Yes, he’s spent a fortune, but it’s his love of his roots that explains why he wanted to bring the 2026 Ryder Cup to Adare Manor.

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The Limerick businessman will be 75 when Europe and the USA do battle by the River Maigue in seven years’ time. But it’s not for personal glorification that McManus has spent well in excess of €100m to stage golf’s greatest team showpiece, but to leave a legacy for his family and for the mid-west that is more enduring than stone.

He’d looked at Adare Manor with a lover’s eyes for years and described his failure to win a bidding war for the property in the late 1980s as “fortunate” for Adare, generously conceding at the grand re-opening last year that were it not for the Kane family, who turned the great estate into a luxury hotel and golf resort, nothing we see today would have been possible.

“I didn’t have enough money to buy Adare,” he said that night. “But I made a lot more and I was very fortunate that I didn’t get it then. Had I got it, it would have been made into a folk park or something.”

That he would take pains to mention Tom and Judy Kane at last year’s special bash was no surprise. Nor was it surprising to hear him speak so warmly of the staff and their emotional investment in the property as the true secret to its success.

Money might be the scoreboard in the business and horse racing world for McManus, the man known as the ‘Sundance Kid’ for his successful jousts with Cheltenham bookies, but it’s also a tool that allows him to make a more enduring mark on his home place.

“They give it their lifeblood,” he said that night when he thanked the hotel staff, greenkeepers and family who’d made the new Adare possible.

This reporter, greener than the Limerick jersey, once bluntly asked what prompted him to buy Luttrellstown Castle. He smiled beatifically, thought for a moment and remarked with a grin that “there would be a lot more fish in the sea if they kept their mouths shut”.

Discretion, according to those who know him best, is the key to his success. It all comes down to contacts and personal relations.

It’s little wonder the CEO of the European Tour Keith Pelley appeared smitten at that re-opening last year where a who’s who of Irish golf and business turned up to see Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry, Paul McGinley and Pádraig Harrington play an exhibition match for charity.

Once stable-mates and team-mates, Lowry and McIlroy had grown apart but were deep in conversation that night and are now closer than ever.

The cynics will tell you there must be a quid pro quo involved in the regular appearances of the world’s greatest players (not to mention the A-list celebrities) in the JP McManus Pro-Am, scheduled for next July.

“JP is one of my dearest friends and it’s cool his Limerick team finally won the title as I know how passionate he is about his hurling as well as his love of horse racing and, of course, golf,” Tiger Woods said last year when the Shannonsiders ended their 45-year wait for the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

We can only take at face value the Government’s insistence that it got a better deal than 2022 hosts Italy when it came to securing its support for the 2026 Ryder Cup – seven more years of support for the Irish Open and the Irish Challenge, the return of the Irish Seniors Open and funding for the infrastructure near Adare and promotion of the event.

It will undoubtedly mean the arrival of the Irish Open or another test event in Adare over the next six years and that can only be good for Limerick and the mid-west.

When he was awarding the construction contract for the revamped Adare, McManus gave it to Anthony Bennett from Ballybunion-based Atlantic Golf Construction rather than sharing it between the local man and the two biggest golf contractors in the country.

He’d initially planned merely to enhance the Robert Trent Jones Snr golf course at Adare Manor but like a man looking to breed the next great thoroughbred, he hired the world’s most renowned golf architect Tom Fazio to work his magic on Trent Jones’ masterpiece and come up with what has been described as “parkland perfection”.

“When I got you in first, I thought, well, there’ll be a couple of pounds spent here,” he joked when thanking Fazio last year. “It won’t make too much difference. Anyway, we were down in Waterville one day and he said to me, ‘Why do people rob banks?’ And I said, ‘You’d better tell me, Tom’. And he said, ‘Well that’s where the money is.’ It took me a couple of months to realise what he meant, before the penny dropped.”

A poor man can only afford the best and in choosing Adare Manor, Irish golf, Irish tourism and the European Tour has hit the jackpot.

Irish Independent

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