The biggest event of the year in any club’s calendar is Captain’s Prize Day and the recent staging of Brian Purcell’s event at The Royal Dublin GC lived up to that billing.
Held over two days – Friday June 15, and Saturday June 16 – to accommodate 300 participants, this was a marathon competition played over the renowned Dollymount Links.
Remarkably, by the time the last shots had been played, and the cards were duly filed into the computer, the outcome produced only the fourth double winner in the history of the Captain’s Prize at Royal Dublin.
Step forward Brendan Coghlan, a club member for over 40 years, who had previously won the Captain’s in 1995, Brian Kearney’s year in office. Not only was this latest win very special for Brendan, who celebrates his 66th birthday in July, but his success highlighted the rarity and the unique nature of such a victory.
The Royal Dublin Captain’s Prize was first played in 1890, when D. Christie was the winner. Just over a century later, Sean Donnelly made a little bit of history by becoming the first member to win the Captain’s Prize twice, a feat he achieved in 1991 to go with his first success back in 1961. Cyril Byrne, Captain’s winner of 1962, the year after Donnelly, came good again, a whopping 42 years later, in 2004.
Now, here’s the long arm of coincidence showing up again, as it does so often in golf.
Brendan Coghlan’s 1995 triumph was followed in ’96 by Stephen Prendergast.
Lo and behold, Prendergast was the third man to do the ‘Captain’s Double’ when he took the laurels again in 2007. And to complete this exclusive list of back-to-back winners becoming dual Captain’s champions, Brendan Coghlan did the business in 2018.
Coghlan, playing off a 13 handicap, produced a magnificent 41 points on the Friday. His playing partner was veteran member Joe Connell, 89 years young, and as Brendan said, “a thorough gentleman and a joy to play with.”
The eventual winner’s nines were 20-21, but a blistering finish of birdie, par, par for nine points on the last three holes was exemplary golf, particularly as he had scored a blank on the 10thhole of the back nine which played into a two-club wind.
Then came the long wait until the Saturday phase of the competition finished, and the members gathered for Brian Purcell’s Captain’s Dinner on the Saturday evening.
Eventually, after speeches and various other class prizes were handed out, it came down to the last two prize winners to be announced.
Once Alan McClean, a 4-handicap, was called out as the runner-up with 41 points, Coghlan knew that his 41 was the winning score on a countback.
“I couldn’t believe it. My second time to win the Captain’s, and the second time I’ve won on the back nine. It was quite emotional,” he said.
Among those he thanked during his acceptance speech, Coghlan had words of praise for playing partner Joe Connell; for the greenkeeping staff who had done a splendid job on the course despite the harsh winter, and for club professional John Dwyer, from whom he received some lessons early in the season.
The pro also gave him a very good deal on a set of TaylorMade M2 irons that have worked very well with his swing, as he showed to good effect in the Captain’s Prize.
However, there was more to come.
Two days after winning Brian Purcell’s Prize, Coghlan, now playing off 11, shot 43 points in a rare Monday competition at his club. He thus received a further cut to 8.0, a loss of five shots.
“I’m delighted. It’s the lowest handicap I have ever had under the present system,” said Coghlan.