Irish tourism operators have given their services free to a group of wounded United States soldiers in providing them with a unique golfing tour.
Over 40 tourism companies are providing 14 ex-combatants, and 11 family members and carers with flights, accommodation, and entertainment. The group which arrived in Ireland on Wednesday and will stay for 12 days.
The trip was organized by Linton Walsh, the Editor and Publisher of GolfDigest Ireland, who said he has been “flabbergasted” by the interest in the trip.
Walsh spoke to the Irish Times about the volume of interest he received from tourism operators in response to his idea. Without the help of these organizers, Walsh estimates that the trip would have cost $517,500 (€400,000).
While visiting the United States, Walsh met with the Folds of Honor Foundation, which provides support and counseling for seriously injured soldiers. He decided to invite them to visit Ireland as a way of promoting his new golf tours business.
However, he told the Times, “the more I learnt about the incredible stories of these people it changed the whole nature of the thing.”
Now he wants this trip to “remind people in America that supporting [Fold of Honor Foundation] is so important – to bridge the gap between what they need and what they get.”
Golf courses such as Ballybunion and Waterville, to Old Head and Royal County Down, to Portmarnock and the European Club have waived their green fees for the trip. Six hotels including the Killarney Plaza, Merrion Hotel, and Dromoland Castle have given them accommodation, and Aer Lingus provided them with flights.
Failte Ireland (Ireland’s tourism board) has also provided the group with a grant, which Walsh told the Irish Times would be “used for drinks.”
Tourism Ireland has also paid for a group of US golf journalists to travel with the group during their 12-day tour. One such journalist is Golf Digest’s Roger Schiffman.
Earlier this week he wrote that he was going on “the most amazing” trip and added, “there’s a catch. I will be accompanied by the most inspirational people our country has to offer -- 11 wounded U.S. veterans who are using golf to get over their injuries. That’s right, nine men and two women who have sacrificed so much physically and mentally as a result of serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.”