Irish golf offers its participants, male and female, a phenomenal amount of competitive fare each year that caters for all levels and all ages. Right across the spectrum, the GUI and the ILGU organise a volume of national, provincial and inter-club competition that is unmatched in these islands.
And that’s without taking into account the international events for which the Unions enter our elite men, women, boys and girls around the globe. Let’s not forget either, the seniors brigade, the over-50s who play an increasingly interesting and competitive range of tournaments in Ireland and abroad.
It all adds up to a hectic golfing season played from February through to October with the peak summer months chock-full of important events.
But here’s the key: the traditional and vital role played by the golf clubs whose committees and member open their doors to GUI and ILGU competitions year in, year out. You might say: ‘well, why wouldn’t they?” And you’re right – the more competition we golfers want to play, the more courses are needed as host venues.
However, pause a moment and consider the commitment shown by clubs who regularly, and in some cases annually, clear their fairways for competitions ranging from the Irish Men and Women’s Close Championships, through the
Cups and Shields qualifiers, and all the way down to Schools championships.
For each event, no matter how big or small, local buy-in by the committees, members in general, and volunteers, is required to host a GUI or ILGU event.
Practice time has to be allowed, courses have to be tuned up, and then comes the actual running of a championship or competition to make it all a success.
While there may be some selfish clubs that avoid taking up an offer to stage a national or provincial event, the vast majority happily still see it as an honour and enthusiastically get involved. Long may that remain the default position, because every year, many courses are needed to ensure the vibrancy of the Irish golf scene.
The GUI have announced the bulk of their 2020 schedule and even with some venues to be confirmed within the provinces, it is clear that around 120 courses are required to fulfil their fixture list.
The ILGU 2020 programme is not yet available, but in 2019 around 60 clubs – some of them also staged GUI competitions – hosted Women and Girls events. In total, we’re talking about approximately 160 of the 425 clubs needed as host venues every year.
We hear much about the Irish Soccer “family” but in golf, the “family” of the Unions and club members are united in presenting a packed schedule of events. This level of involvement deserves to be recognised as a worthy reflection of our enjoyment of individual and inter-club competition. It’s worth remembering that from their earliest days in the game, our Major champions – Rory McIlroy, Pádraig Harrington, Shane Lowry, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke – first played events in their local area, then their province and then around the country competing against their peers.
The GUI Boys and Men’s scene, and in the case of the women, the ILGU circuits that brought Leona and Lisa Maguire and Stephanie Meadow to prominence, were and still are, the proving ground for raw Irish talent. It could not happen without the clubs putting their courses up for inclusion on the fixtures roster.
We have heard much about the Irish Soccer “family” but in golf, the “family” of officialdom and members are genuinely united in presenting a packed schedule of events. Among the highlights of the GUI season next year will be the AIG Irish Close Championship at Rosapenna (Sandy Hills) from May 9-13; the Flogas Irish Amateur Open at Galway GC (August 13-16) and the AIG Cups & Shields finals at Donegal GC (Murvagh) from September 18-20.
Rosapenna has never previously held the Blue Riband event of Irish golf, and no doubt the competitors will be fully tested by the formidable Pat Ruddy-designed Sandy Hills links. Galway Golf Club has staged the Irish Close four times – 1935, 1949, 1957, and 2017, but this will be a debut staging of the Irish Amateur Open.
There is a Pat Ruddy link with the Cups & Shields finals as he has been tweaking and upgrading the Donegal GC links over the past 25 years.
The course at Murvagh was originally designed by the late, great Eddie Hackett, but when Eddie retired in the early 1990s, Ruddy was invited by the club to take on the design portfolio.
In his own words, as expressed in his most recent book “Holes In My Head: A Lifetime Dreaming Golf Holes,”Ruddy’s approach at Donegal GC is summed up thus:
“Work has gone along from year to year. Nice and easy, so that we would not disrupt the life and finances of the club.
“We have continued for a quarter of a century so far. Nothing has been done to change the basic routing in those twenty-five years, it is about perfect, but the improvements have been very substantial and extensive to the point that we now know we have a very polished diamond on hand.”
Incidentally, Donegal’s commitment is impressive for next year, as the club will also hold the Ulster Section Senior Cup final (August 22-23), and the Ulster Section Pierce Purcell Shield and Junior Cup finals on August 30.
Rosapenna is staging the Ulster Mid-Amateur Championship on July 4, as well as the Irish Close in May.
Full list of 2020 GUI fixtures HERE