Bob Bestler

Welcome Killarney to family

Myrtle Beach has three sister cities - Pinamar, Argentina; Burlington, Ontario, Canada; and Keighley, England - but it is about to hit the jackpot with Killarney, Ireland, and the rich, rolling countryside that is on display in the nearby 110-mile Ring of Kerry.

Killarney is a town of just 9,000, founded around 1754. It is considered to be Ireland's first and still foremost tourist attraction.

It has been the subject of poets and artists almost from the beginning. Next month's visit to the Grand Strand of five of Killarney's finest, including Mayor Sheila Casey, will offer all of us a special St. Patrick's Day celebration.

They will be wined and dined by the Sister Cities Committee, with a little help from the Ancient Order of Hibernians. And they will spend March 17 aboard a float in the North Myrtle Beach St. Patrick's Day Parade. Don't be surprised if they stop for a moment at Flynn's Irish Pub for a pint of Guinness.

"Mainly we want to foster a friendship with Killarney and share our tourism, educational and culture values," said Tim Kearney, president of the Myrtle Beach Sister Cities Committee.

"I think Killarney has a lot in common with Myrtle Beach and will make a great exchange city for us."

I can attest that it has much in common with Myrtle Beach. I spent a week in Killarney in 2005 and found it as fun-loving as Ireland is supposed to be.

I was there with a friend, Shaun Walsh, to play golf. We found, within a couple of hours of Killarney, enough great courses to fulfill our wildest golf fantasies - Old Head, Lahinch, Waterville, Tralee, Doonbeg and the historic Ballybunion.

These days golf tourism is almost as important to Killarney as it is to Myrtle Beach. In fact, one of the five Killarney visitors will be Thomas Kelliher, director of the Killarney Golf & Fishing Club (who is still looking for a tee time in Myrtle Beach on March 18, hint-hint)

Our visitors will be checking out Horry-Georgetown Technical College and Coastal Carolina University with an eye toward a student-exchange program with St. Brendan's College in Killarney.

Their cultural experience will range from Brookgreen Gardens to Dixie Stampede. I'd also suggest Wal-Mart.

When Walsh and I welcomed a group of Killarney golfers to the Grand Strand, they were almost as interested in Wal-Mart as they were our golf courses.

Killarney may have a lot to offer, but it doesn't have a Wal-Mart.

ONLINE | For past columns, go to the Bestler page at