Leo Logan talks Strandhill, the club that refused to bend


Strandhill Golf Club.

Recessions and vulture funds could have eaten up the beautiful sprawling links in Strandhill but its heart continued to pump.

Golf has been the lifeblood of this area for almost a century now but the committee and members had to fight hard to keep their beloved golf course.

World War 2, a club fire, and a debt crisis were other obstacles they had to hurdle and


it took people like Leo Logan, Robbie Henneberry and Michael Henry to help get them to this point.

Financially they are secure, the future is bright, while this week they host the Irish Senior Men’s and Women’s Irish Close Championships.

“That’s a huge plus for us. I think people in that age-bracket enjoy our course. It’s not the longest but it’s tricky. They will enjoy it,” said former Strandhill Captain and President, Logan.

Although Strandhill only celebrated 50 years as an 18-hole golf course just recently, their foundation dates back to 1931.

Originally a nine-hole venture, John McAlister redesigned it a decade later before initial plans for a new 18-hole course were dropped due to World War 2.

Still, Strandhill made more history with the formation of a unique Winter League, which was the first in Ireland and remains in place to this day.

World War 2 had given way to rationing but Strandhill survived through the most difficult times as its members remained loyal – it was a sign of things to come.

In 1946 the clubhouse, formally resembling a tin shed, moved to Bustards Lodge beside the 18th green. Two years later a bar was added and in time that would become a focal point for the more social side of golf in Sligo.

“It was different times, the drink and driving wasn’t as big an issue,” said Logan.

“There was a huge social aspect associated with the club. It was a big social outlet for a lot of people. Our Winter League was infamous because we could have had 240 guys playing on a winter’s morning, all into the bar afterwards.

“And it was sponsored by Murphy’s Heineken, so we had a free bar of Murphy’s.”

In the interim, 1973 saw the introduction of an 18-hole layout. Co Sligo Professional Johnny McGonigle was involved, and although the existing nine holes still featured, it was a brand new era for Strandhill.

At the turn of the Millennium further plans were afoot with more land purchased at the back of the fourth hole before a chain of events that would endanger the future of the historic golf course.

First a fire ripped through the heart of a recently remodelled clubhouse in 2005 but the people of Strandhill persevered and by December of the following year a new clubhouse was opened.

However with the Crash lurking around the corner, and loans to be paid, Strandhill had to regroup and focus on keeping the club alive.

“We negotiated with the vulture fund and we did the presentations and got the members to commit, and the members were great,” said Logan.

“Granted we offered them a pretty decent dividend on their money. A lot more than they were getting in their banks at the time. Everybody was ultra conservative because it wasn’t a time to spend, a time of crisis like that. It was a time to save.

“There was cash there and there was guys who wanted to invest it rather than having it lying in a bank. We offered them a 5% interest rate and got approval from the revenue. It was a fairly decent dividend when they were getting nothing in the bank. They stepped forward.”

Strandhill had aimed to salvage about €500,000 but they got over €600,000 in that fundraising drive. It was a crucial juncture in the club’s history.

“The one thing that it did do at the time. We were only repaying the interest over the duration of the loan from the members. The capital doesn’t have to be repaid until the end of this year, so it allowed us to start focusing all we needed to focus on,” said Logan.

“Having got our heads out of our asses with the loans we were able to focus on the course and course development and that’s what we have been at over the last four or five years is course development.

“We are reaping the benefits of that. Our ratings have improved nationally. We are seeing an awful lot of business from the international tourists too.”

From a point where Ulster Bank began to sell off their non-performing loan book including the Strandhill loans and dealing with the Vulture Fund, Cerberus, and their agents in Ireland, the club have a more steady footing now.

They have a five-year course development plan in place thanks to the work of Ally McIntosh.

Meanwhile, women’s and junior golf have seen a huge upturn in fortunes.

“Our junior golf programme is picking up again. We have got tremendous interest in it. We have got people that are dedicated to it now as well, focused on it. We see numbers increasing there,” said Logan.

“We see Get Into Golf too, one of your initiatives. We have gone again this year with it and we have a lot of women getting involved again. So we are seeing a big increase in the number of women that are playing as well which is a big move for us.”

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