A Slice of Life: John Gleeson excited about the future in Lahinch



With a few huge events on the horizon, it’s easy to get excited about what lies ahead. However this week Lahinch will return to its roots again, the Pierse Motors South of Ireland is in its 121st year.

John Gleeson is the chairperson that announced a record surplus in April, that news came after Lahinch was named as the hosts of the 2024 Arnold Palmer Cup and before The R&A released the destination for the 2026 Walker Cup.

But the Offaly native is quick to point out that there are others within the club who played an even bigger role in securing its financial future while the massive amateur events coming their way are a major bonus.


“We’re very grateful, obviously it was an ambition of ours for a long time that we could get the Walker Cup and we’re very grateful that The R&A have chosen us,” said Gleeson.

“We had a good look at it in 2016/17 and it wasn’t possible because Hoylake was earmarked for 2019 and it’s the Centenary one this year and that was for St Andrews. So, we left it at that stage but then we had the Irish Open and after that we thought we would renew our efforts.

“We had a small sub-committee; myself, Padraig McInerney who was chairman of the South of Ireland committee and the man who has run the South for the last 15 years. Padraig Slattery, who was our 125th captain in 2017. And Paddy Keane, our general manager, who is well known throughout the golfing world, a fantastic administrator who does an incredible job running the golf club.

“There was a gang of four, led by Padraig Slattery, and it was three years in the making and thankfully we were announced a few weeks ago as the host for 2026.”

Luckily the date in the calendar was changed too to ensure the Walker Cup and World Amateur Team Championships didn’t clash. Conveniently for Lahinch it means their hosting of the 51st match won’t clash with The Ryder Cup in Adare Manor the following year.

“That was a boost for us as well, obviously it would be difficult to get traction in the same year, same month, if you were up against the Ryder Cup,” said Gleeson.

All in all, it leads to an incredible four years of golf on the island. Portmarnock hosts the Women’s Amateur Championship in 2024 shortly before the Arnold Palmer Cup comes to Lahinch. The Open returns to Royal Portrush the following year, then the Walker Cup is in Lahinch in 2026 and in 2027 the Ryder Cup will take place in Limerick.

“Ireland’s a wonderful place for golf but the current era, I think it’s safe to say this is at an absolutely golden era for golf in Ireland,” said Gleeson.

Gleeson is originally from Birr but lived in Dublin for over 40 years and is a member of Milltown Golf Club there.

He has represented Milltown alongside Jody Fanagan, who once teamed up with Padraig Harrington to beat Tiger Woods in the Walker Cup.

Gleeson has also played alongside Harrington in the past while he has a storied career in the South of Ireland as well.

“My dad played in Lahinch but before I was even born, and Lahinch was always so widely regarded. He played in one South of Ireland. So, I was always aware of Lahinch,” said Gleeson.

“The first time I actually went to Lahinch was with UCD, I think it was 1973. There was a match between UCD first team and Lahinch Senior Cup team and that was played annually, and it was a great outing for the students.

“I left college in 1976 so I would’ve played every year in Lahinch up to that and then after UCD I went to England straight after I qualified from college and I came back in 1980 and I then played in the South, I would say every year from 1982 to 1990, so a regular.”

Gleeson retired from championship golf in the early 1990s and bought a house in Lahinch in 1995 – the house overlooks Lahinch’s old course with the Castle Course behind.

His friendship with Paul McGinley was a big factor in hosting the Irish Open in 2019 and that laid the foundations for a few remarkable years.

In April, Gleeson brought the news of a record operating surplus of €2million, green fees shot up and it boded well before the Walker Cup announcement.

The South of Ireland begins this morning, another festival of golf that is invariably linked to the awesome Lahinch links and the community cannot wait.

“The South means a huge amount, it’s the oldest tournament in Ireland and it’s always been one that every player really, really wants to win,” said Gleeson.

“If you look at all of those great players that won it back to John Burke, who was a member here in Lahinch and our most famous one, I think I’m right in saying the first Walker Cup player ever from Ireland. On to JB Carr and Michael Guerin who famously won it three times in a row.

“The history of it and more recent times all those major champions who both played and won in Lahinch including Paul McGinley, who never won a major but obviously captained the Ryder Cup team, Paul won it as well in 1991.

“So, the history of it is immense, every player wants to win it from your average championship hackers like myself to the very best internationals, everybody dreams of winning the South. It is really important to the club, we’re very proud of it.

“Last year we had a fantastic field, we had an incredible final, Hugh Foley against Peter O’Keeffe. Hugh, having just won the North of Ireland beforehand, and in an outstanding final played in three hours, Hugh won 2-1.

“This year, unfortunately we are missing Hugh because he is in America but maybe it’s the opportunity for Peter O’Keeffe, last year’s beaten finalist. Other notables, Rob Moran who has yet to win a championship, he’s on the Walker Cup panel, he will come here very much with an eye to winning this. And then so many other internationals, so many young great players.

“Peter Sheehan won in 1993, 30 years later he tees it up yet again in the South and I’d be surprised if Peter certainly doesn’t make the top 64 for the match play.

“It’s a throwback to years gone by.”


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