Fifty years after earning national headlines as a goalscoring hero for the Roscommon team which won the Connacht SFC title, renowned and irrepressible golf coach Mel Flanagan is embarking on a marathon golf-fest.
Mel and a cohort of friends from the USA and Ireland have scheduled a hectic tour of 16 courses in 11 days from April 21 to May 3rd.
The venture is called the inaugural “Fanatical Golf Tour” – and that’s an accurate description.
Many groups plan golf trips with social activity a priority but the players on the Fanatical Golf Tour will not be nursing hangovers.
The brainchild of Mel and New York lawyer Jonathan Bayer, the FGT will keep the focus on golf.
Says Mel: “Our tour is all about golf, pure golf, for people who want to cram in as many courses in as short a space of time as possible.
“I met Jonathan Bayer in New York about five years ago and we became firm friends. We both love golf, and he’s bringing over some pals of his who have the same enthusiasm for the game.
“We will be joined at some of the courses by Irish friends and we hope this is only the first of many tours for genuinely fanatical golfers.”
The Americans’ flight is due to arrive in Dublin at 7.05am on Thursday April 21. Once the luggage is collected, it’s all systems go.
This is the full schedule with dates and tee-off times:
April 21: Rathcore GC (9.30am); County Longford GC (3.0pm)
April 22: County Sligo GC (8.0am);
April 23: Donegal GC (Murvagh) 10.40am; Cruit Island GC (5.0pm);
April 24: Rosapenna – Sandy Hills Links (9.0am); Old Tom Morris Links (2.0pm);
April 25: Rosapenna – St Patrick’s Links (9.15am);
April 26: Portstewart GC (Strand) 8.30am; Royal Portrush (Dunluce (3.0pm);
April 27: County Louth GC (9.10am); April 28: Royal County Down GC (9.31am); April 29: Portmarnock GC (7.30am);
April 30: European Club (8.40am); Royal Dublin GC (3.30pm);
May 1: The Island GC (3.30pm).
Accommodation will be the Yeats Country Hotel in Sligo (April 21-23); Beach Hotel Downings in Donegal (April 23-25); Bushmills Inn, County Antrim (April 25); Slieve Donard, Newcastle County Down (April 26-27); The Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin (April 28-May 2)
Phew! Even though buggies will be used and the intention is to enjoy the golf while taking it seriously enough, this will be a hectic but unforgettable experience for the participants.
The golf fanatics will enjoy playing internationally famous links, all of them rated inside the top 15 of the Irish Golfer Magazine’s “Top 100 Courses” rankings for 2022.
Royal Portrush, Portmarnock and Royal County Down were 1, 2, and 3 respectively in the poll.
County Louth came in at number 6; St Patrick’s Links at 9; The European Club was 11th and The Island 12th. County Sligo was rated as 14th.
Rathcore, designed by Mel, and County Longford on day one will also offer a nice warm up on two splendid parkland layouts.
“The great thing about golf is that at my age – I’m 72 now, level par – I can be part of a trip like this, and I’m looking forward to it immensely,” said Mel.
Golf has been his and the broader Flanagan family’s life for many decades, but it’s worth remembering that Mel also made his mark in Gaelic football.
He was captain of the St Nathy’s Ballaghadereen team which won the Connacht Colleges SFC title in 1968. No team from St Nathy’s since then has emulated that feat.
Mel graduated through the ranks to the Roscommon senior team, reaching an early peak in a glorious summer of 1972.
At that stage, the Rossies were also-rans in Connacht who had not won a provincial senior title since 1962.
Remember that in those days, all Championship football was straight knockout, and Roscommon had suffered plenty of them from the Big Two, Galway and Mayo, for many years before the breakthrough season of ’72.
It started with a win over Leitrim, then a draw and replay against title holders Galway, and a glory day of delight when Roscommon beat Mayo 5-8 (23 points) to 3-10 (19 points) at Castlebar in the final.
The drawn match with Galway was played at Dr Hyde Park on June 25, with Galway coming from nine points down at one stage to force a replay.
Sports journalist Michael Fortune, sadly now deceased, writing in the Irish Press said: “For me, the lasting memory of this game will be a cracking goal scored in the second half by Roscommon’s corner forward Mel Flanagan.
“Soaring high to grab the ball 70 yards from the Galway goal, Flanagan started out on a solo run, knifed his way through the entire Galway defence. Then, from 12 yards out he left PJ Smith (Galway’s goalkeeper), with absolutely no chance.”
Roscommon won the replay 1-8 to 0-7, and then took on Mayo on July 16, 1972 at Castlebar where 25,000 fans watched the action.
This was another thriller, with Mel again scoring a feature goal late in the game at a crucial time for Roscommon.
JP Burke of the Tuam Herald describing the score wrote: “Mel Flanagan streaked through on a 50 yards solo that he capped with a brilliant goal from about 20 yards, as good a goal as has been seen on any field.”
Two years later, Mel dropped out of football after a bout of ulcerative colitis.
“Golf was my first love anyway,” he said. “I had some great times with Roscommon but I’ve never regretted making golf my career. And I’m still in love with the game.”
For all enquiries contact Mel Flanagan on firstname.lastname@example.org