The end of an era

John Shortt

Michael McCumiskey

John Shortt

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For the majority of Irish golfers, the PGA in Ireland and the name Michael McCumiskey go hand in hand, with Michael having spent 35 years as the Ireland Manager. And having spent time with Michael over the years at events, functions and conferences, it was with a heavy heart that I made the trip to Dundalk Golf Club last month to attend a PGA Pro-Am in his honour, celebrating his retirement.

To say that the day was a roaring success would be an understatement and it is testament to the man himself that PGA sponsors past and present, members of Dundalk Golf Club, a veritable who’s who of PGA in Ireland members and also the Chief Executive of the PGA of Great Britain and Ireland were in attendance to wave him on his way with their best wishes.

I managed to pry McCumiskey away from his duties on the day for a quick chat and as ever he was humble about his career achievements, thankful to everyone who had supported him over the years and optimistic about his life in retirement and the future of the PGA in Ireland, which he has left in the capable hands of Conor Dillon.

“I started working for the PGA in March 1986, so I’ve had a good innings,” said McCumiskey.

“For the first 14 months I worked in the front room of my house and I’ll always remember that because one of the first cheques I got for sponsorship was for IRL £10,000 in June 1986 from Tretorn Spalding. We had twins who were born in 1982 and they got to the cheque before I did and I was handed lots of small pieces of cheque… all I could think was ‘They’re going to say this fella isn’t great at minding cheques’.  I knew then that I had to find an office outside the house!”

And an office outside the house he found, at what was to become the long-term home of the PGA in Ireland at Dundalk Golf Club, which still houses the offices to this day. Indeed, it was in these familiar surroundings that we sat for a few moments to reminisce.

“Retirement is something that you have to try to know if it’s working for you or not, but it’s working for me,” McCumiskey says. “I officially retired at the end of April and I’m getting on with things and I’ve taken to playing golf with friends and I’m also a big fan of horse racing, although I wouldn’t be one for betting.

“We (Anne and I) have three grandchildren and we’re minding one of those on Mondays and Fridays, she lives nearby and we have another grandchild who lives in Dublin and we went to spend some time there a few days ago, which was brilliant. It’s the intermix of things that I get to do now, that I maybe didn’t have time for before, that brings me joy and happiness.

“The job was full-on. It was (and is) a big undertaking and even with developments in IT and so on there was always a lot to do and between the members, events, sponsors, partners and so many other things, it was a hectic 35 years. Retirement is working for me though and I’m enjoying it.

“Today’s Pro-am was incredible. John O’Sullivan and the members here at Dundalk Golf Club have to be given much of the credit, they put in all the work. Looking at the lists of those taking part there are people here who I’ve worked with for 10 or more years who’ve entered teams to support the event and a large proportion of the funds raised are going to the PGA Benevolent Fund, so I’m delighted to see them involved. And it was first class to see players past and present here too.

“We’ve been here 35 years in Dundalk and we’ve always had a really good rapport with the various managers and committees and it was super to see them all.”

In a career spanning 35 years, there had to be some highlight moments and while McCumiskey downplayed his role in making them happen, he did mention one or two that he was particularly proud of:

“I’m leaving Dundalk and the PGA with good memories. We achieved a lot over the years and it wasn’t an easy task. There were challenges and ups and downs along the way but I look back with happy memories.

“When I joined the PGA, and it’s still the case today, a big part of the success of the PGA in Ireland is the golf clubs that support the events. The challenge a lot of the time was the Irish Championship but when Michael Smurfit came on board in 1990 he sponsored the Irish Championship for 13 years, until 2003 when Paul McGinley pipped Gary Murphy to the title. That was huge.

“Sean Quinn was also a big cog in the wheel of the success of the PGA in Ireland and that is etched in the memories for me. We went to the Slieve Russell for the first time in 1993 and the event is still going with dates already set for 2022.
“And there are other clubs too who deserve to be recognised such as Connemara (since 1980), Carne (over 20 years), Cairndhu (over 30 years), it’s been wonderful.

“The overriding memory I have of the events though is the empathy and the association that I have with all those people and all those clubs who worked with me and the PGA over all the years. I’m proud to be able to call many of them friends.

“There’s also the PGA members and one of the main aspects of the job was to look after and help the PGA members in Ireland. That was and is a big task and I’m very proud to have done as much as I could for them over the years.

“When I took the job, I was always expected to develop events and in particular the Irish Championship – it hasn’t been easy since 2008/09 with the economic downturn but to have managed to do that for so many years is something I’m very proud of.

“As you know, I was due to retire in 2020 but then the pandemic hit and I was asked in April 2020 if I’d stay on for a while to allow the PGA time for recruitment and I did that. They found a super guy to replace me in Conor Dillon and we worked together for a few months before I stepped away and to my mind, I’m leaving the organisation in great hands.

“Conor is his own man and I gave him as much detail I could but he calls the shots now and I wish him every good thing.”

To close out our chat, I asked Michael if he wanted to say anything – and in his own selfless way, he commented;

“To all the members, committees and everyone I’ve worked with in my PGA role over the years, I look back in a very positive way and thank you for everything.

“I may have had the title but what made the PGA successful over the years was the people who worked here with me.  People like Yvonne Cassidy, Patrick Bradshaw, Peadar McParland, Seamus McKibbin, John Cassidy and Paul Wisniewski – every success we had was a team effort and I wish them all the best for the future.”

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