Loughrea Golf Club was rocked when three of its most influential members died suddenly in November 2017, Adrian Callanan was tasked with helping to stabilise what was a sinking ship.
It could have gone south at that stage but the club soon got back on a positive financial footing and within a few years they were looking at a more sustainable outlook.
Now, Loughrea is one of the most progressive golf clubs in the country and they have turned to solar panels to help secure their future.
“We would never have thought of putting in solar panels two years ago because the unit price of electricity was 16c, 17c a unit. The payback would have been 12, 13 years on the solar panels back then,” said Callanan.
“But with the energy crisis our unit price went up to a high of 70c a unit. So the payback period was much shorter. The whole system cost us €12,000 plus VAT. So our payback is a little over three years.
“And we try now to be much more economical with appliances. Fridges are knocked off at night, the heating only comes on at certain times. If there is a day when the clubhouse is closed there will be no heat on.
“We just became more aware of the costs that were involved because of the huge increase.”
It’s been a whirlwind five years since that tragedy struck and Callanan was the right man to steer the ship at the time.
The 53-year-old comes from a family who are steeped in Galway GAA, his late father is Tom Callanan was the chairman of the county board for over 17 years and the Galway Senior Hurling Championship cup is now named after him.
But there was always golf as well and his sister, Marie Carr, is a volunteer with the Golf Ireland Connacht Region while his brother, David Callanan, is head greenkeeper in Beech Park Golf Club.
Adrian Callanan played hurling for the local Kilconieron club and he went on to be a civil engineer before retiring in his early-40s and eventually joining Loughrea Golf Club in 2010.
“I knew about 20 people in the club and I was happy enough to leave it at that until 2014 when I was asked by the chairman at the time would I be interested in coming in as treasurer. I said no problem and I did,” said Callanan.
“I did treasurer of the main club for three years. It was difficult times for the club, while we weren’t heavily in debt we weren’t really able to cope with the debt that we had. We didn’t have enough members to serve the debt that we had.
“It was always a battle fundraising, trying to get new members in, offering special deals, all this kind of thing, having auctions all things that were kind of a side as to what the running of a golf club should be.”
And things took another turn in November 2017 when Loughrea Golf Club’s office manager Danny Hynes died on a Sunday evening. The following Saturday morning their course manager Colm Muldoon also passed and then the later that month their competitions secretary, Neil McGhee, died too.
“It was very emotional and even recalling it now I still get a bit upset. A very dark time for the club, all three deaths were very sudden and they would have all have been very active in the club,” said Callanan.
“Danny Hynes died on a Sunday and when I opened the office door on the Monday morning I just started crying. I didn’t know where or how I was going to start because it was like putting a 10,000-piece jigsaw together and you didn’t know what the jigsaw looked like.”
But they had to piece things together as well as they could especially with an AGM around the corner and there had been no accounts prepared at that time.
Callanan drafted in the help of an accountant who was a member in the club and together with Albert Mannion they got the accounts in order for the annual meeting.
It took long hours though, Callanan remembers a six-week block where most days he would be in the club at 9am and wouldn’t leave again until 11pm.
But they got through it and Callanan continued to volunteer in the office until the following February but even when he vacated that position there was still a need for real guidance.
Loughrea was suffering, it didn’t have enough members while membership, green fees and societies rates were too cheap as they continued to go further into the mire.
“When Covid came there was a big panic, everybody thought that the world was ending,” said Callanan.
“The golf club was closed, it was heavily in debt and it hadn’t the capacity to make the repayments to the bank. At that stage I said to the management committee, if ye like I can come back in and reorganise the office.”
Loughrea began to save €20,000 a year with Callanan back in a voluntary capacity where he took on a managerial position and subsequently the role of treasurer.
He had previously volunteered for the social services charity, COPE Galway, and was now giving back to his local golf club again.
But Callanan was desperate to provide the club with a sustainable future, and ahead of being awarded the Connacht Club Volunteer of the Year, he gave Loughrea a financial platform to build from.
“Everything has gone crazy so we have to look at all of our costs and try to minimise wherever we can,” said Callanan.
The two big ones would have been electricity and oil. Very little we can do in terms of the cost of oil but the gas price never really went crazy like electricity did. That’s where we are at with solar panels and our energy use.
“We got a big influx of members, as everybody did, in 2020. That enabled us to clear our overdraft and in the first year we put ourselves on a more steady financial footing. The second year we managed to hold onto those members which meant that we were able to build a surplus.
“We did a new irrigation system around our greens at the cost of €65,000. Before that in periods of drought greenkeepers would have to come in at 10pm and hand-water the greens which was a backward step. Our new sprinkler system was all automated and has cut down our wage bill.
“We built a new clubhouse 40 years ago. The carpark that was put in was okay but it was only tar and chip it wasn’t tarmacked. So when you drove in you were driving into this potholed, gravely car park. The first impression you got was of a run-down place, it let the club down.
“So we re-surfaced the carpark and re-lined it last year. It makes a huge first impression when you drive into Loughrea Golf Club now.”