Man who will tell the President precisely where to go

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The Independent Online
FOR NINE years, Michael Scanlon, a Kerryman, worked in a dispatch office in a rundown suburb of west London. Today, for four and a half hours, he will be telling the President of the United States what to do.

Mr Scanlon, 62, chosen by Ballybunion Golf Club in deepest Co Kerry to be caddie to President Bill Clinton during his round today, is delighted. His deep blue eyes widen and a smile lifts his crimson cheeks. "It will be the greatest day of my life," he says in a soft-as-butter accent. "It is the greatest honour."

The club is one of the world's finest, stretching along two miles of dunes on the south-western tip of Ireland. The chosen man is a true professional, easily vetted by the secret service agents who popped out of every available orifice in Ballybunion yesterday.

Mr Scanlon's father was the head greenkeeper on the same, spectacular course in 1933. His daughter lives in New Jersey, his son in New York City, and he has been a caddie for 10 years.

The President, he said, "will just be any other golfer" when he comes to the course.

The travelling circus that is President Clinton Inc. descends today upon this lovely coastal village 50 miles south of Limerick. The locals are preparing with a mixture of bunting, American flags and anticipation.

There is some delicacy. Once upon a time, Communist countries would hurriedly take down posters of anti-Western rhetoric ahead of a visit by a bourgeois capitalist leader. In Ballybunion, the only thing that has been taken down is Monica. The owner of Monica's, a seafront trinket shop, has covered its sign with a board, stuck a notice on renaming it (temporarily) The President's Store, and stocked up with US memorabilia.

After Russia's chill and Northern Ireland's sad determination, the leader of the free world is likely to receive the warmest welcome of his tour in this town of 3,000 souls.

"It's the most wonderful thing for us and the economy because it will bring in the dollars," said Eileen Flanerty, 35, a teacher. Her son Desmond, five, clutched an American flag that was taller than himself. President Clinton will drop in on Ballybunion for a round this afternoon after a speech to the people of Limerick. His golfing partners will be the former Irish foreign minister Dick Spring, the Irish finance minister, Charlie McCreevy, the former Ryder Cup star Christy O'Connor and the club captain, Brian McCarthy.

Club committee members, when asked why the group was a fivesome, muttered darkly about being coerced into accepting a player who had not been on the original plan.