The ever-popular Officers Challenge competition, brainchild of the late great Cecil Whelan is now in its 25th year and kicked off the 2021 Challenge at the newly revamped Malone Golf Club.
Contested by club officers with teams consisting of Captain, Lady Captain and one other club officer, twelve teams took to the Belfast parkland layout for the season opener, looking to advance to the final at The K Club in September.
The weather cooperated on the longest day of the year as sunshine coupled with a fresh breeze combined to ensure a strong but fair challenge for the teams.
With a total score of 78 points Shandon Park, led by Captain Diarmuid Maguire & Lady Captain Paula Irvine alongside Vice-Captain Harry Thompson left the rest of the field trailing in their wake as they won by three shots.
“We’re so happy to win here today. It wasn’t expected. We just came to have an enjoyable time and we certainly did that,” said Diarmuid Maguire Captain of the winning Shandon Park team.
“We have played Malone before, but this was our first time to see the course after its recent upgrades and it is stunning” he added.
Lady Captain Paula Irvine was also thrilled with the win. “As a club Shandon Park have qualified for the final of the Officers Challenge a few times in the past but this is the first time we have won a qualifier event so it’s nice to bring a pennant back to the club and we are really looking forward to playing at The K Club now. None of us have played it before so we can’t wait.”
“The welcome and hospitality received by all on the day was five star from Malone and it’s a fantastic event to be a part of. We got off to a fast start and just kept going as a team and really enjoyed the day” added Shandon Park vice-captain Harry Thompson.
Runners-up following a countback were Ballycastle on 75 points, represented by Captain Eoin Donnelly, Lady Captain Rosemary Morton and Vice-Captain Des Nevin.
The Castle Hume trio of Captain Conrad Wheeler, Lady Captain Bridie McCaffrey and Hon Treasurer Ivan Read came third, also with a commendable 75 points. The top three teams all now advance to the grand final which will take place on the Palmer North Course at The K Club in Kildare on September 21st.
Speaking at the event Allianz Director of Sales Peter Kilcullen was happy to see the return of the Officers Challenge. “Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the 2020 staging was cancelled so it’s great to be back hosting the Officers Challenge again. The team at Allianz are also delighted to join with Irish Golfer this season as partners on the event and look forward to a successful partnership running the series.”
Peter Finnan, Director at Irish Golfer commented; “Allianz have backed the Officers Challenge since its inception and to be involved in an event with such history and prestige is an honour for us at Irish Golfer.
“Cecil Whelan was one of a kind and a great friend of mine and the Officers Challenge series has his stamp all over it to this day thanks to the hard work of his friends Donal Bollard and Paul Muldowney. They continued the legacy when Cecil passed away in 2016 and he would have loved nothing more than filling a room full of ‘Blazers’ as he would put it. The team at Irish Golfer are thrilled to play a small part of keeping this tradition alive this year and into the future.”
The next event will take place on July 13th at Cork Golf Club
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