IRELAND: Hole in one for students

An Irish golf scholarship programme is set to become one of the most sought after in the world, following a €2 million donation from a billionaire. Students who enrol at the National University of Ireland Maynooth will have free access to the championship Montgomerie and O’Meara courses in the exclusive Carton House Estate, and also benefit from winter training on the Oceanico Group golf courses in Portugal’s Algarve.

The money has been donated by JP McManus, a friend of Tiger Woods, in recognition of Irishman Padraig Harrington’s success in winning the Irish and British Opens. The scholarships are named in memory of Padraig’s late father, Paddy Harrington.

Golf is one of the key sports in the NUI Maynooth portfolio of sports scholarships. Established in 2006, with the support of Oceanico Group, the golf scholarships are a the result of a collaboration between the university and the Golfing Union of Ireland’s National Golf Academy, based at Carton House where students will get free coaching.

The scholarships combine academic and sporting talents. Applicants can get into any undergraduate programme on slightly lower academic entry requirements, provided they have the sporting ability. Tuition is free in Irish universities but many students work part time. The scholarships will include a significant bursary which will remove the necessity to work.

Ireland has a proud tradition of producing world class golfers. University President Professor John Hughes said the JP McManus donation would ensure this continued, and would enable students, who previously would have gone abroad, to stay in Ireland and develop into internationally competitive golfers.

* McManus, a racehorse owner and a director of Manchester United football club, has also given money to a separate scholarship scheme which, however, has run into some controversy. He has donated €24 million to create a fund to assist 120 high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds each year who are progressing to higher education. In addition he has donated €6 million for a similar scheme in Northern Ireland.

The donation was welcomed by Minister for Education Mary Hanafin. But the Teachers’ Union of Ireland said that it raised questions about state support for disadvantaged students and the need to rely on the private sector, and particularly on people who were ‘”tax exiles”.

McManus lives in Switzerland.