Royal Tara: From zero to All-Ireland Champions

Hannah Guerin, Sophie Sharp, Niamh Carroll and Lily Reilly from Royal Tara. Winners of the Girls Inter-Club All-Ireland Finals pictured with their Junior Captain Emma Byrne and manager Lucy Farrell (Photo: : image by Jenny Matthews / Cashman Photography)

When the crowd falls silent over Gleneagles as the first tee shot of the Solheim Cup is struck this Friday morning, five girls from Royal Tara Golf Club will be there, proudly bearing their club colours.

The journey to get to this point was hard work. Harder even than scheduling the trip to Scotland which involved a horsebox full of golf clubs on the Larne to Stranraer sailing, but it’s been worth it for Lucia Farrell who has volunteered in golf since the early 80’s, encouraged initially by Mary McKenna MBE to establish the Bank of Ireland Golf Society of which she became Secretary and Captain and she remarks; “It was always golf”.

Marriage meant a move from Tullamore to Navan and membership of Royal Tara. With two small children, her original stint on committee was cut short, however in 1999 Farrell was asked to become Vice Captain.

“At the time the Women’s Club were looking for full membership. I was young so they thought I would be very interested in full membership,” she laughs. “I was Captain in 2001 and in that year female members became full members of the club. Previous Captains and committees had worked hard to get to that point so it was a proud moment for the club.”

That significant time for the club was closely followed by their Centenary celebrations. Farrell again was a part of the organising committee, writing sections of their history to mark the occasion.

“I then became Competitions Secretary of the Ladies Club and shortly afterwards Sinead Heraty suggested I go forward for the position of Honorary Secretary of the East Leinster District.”

Reaching the pinnacle of volunteering on the ILGU District Executive is the goal for some, however hindsight has proven that Farrell’s calling was yet to be fulfilled.

“I finished my four years on the District Executive and in 2015 our Lady Captain, Marie Nolan, was very interested in Junior Golf. Nobody was interested in taking on the role of Convenor and she asked me to consider it.”

Close to 25 years on and the commitments to the various committees was beginning to catch up with Farrell, who was contemplating time to focus on her own golf.

“I had to think long and hard to see if I had a vision for it. I knew a lot about junior development from my time involved with the ILGU. That was my grounding and gave me the knowledge I needed. If I do something I have to give it 100%. Chris, my husband, had been Junior Convenor previously and he encouraged me to give it a go.”

The role required a clean slate as there were no girls playing at Royal Tara.

“If I saw you in the club I would ask you if you had a daughter or a granddaughter and that was the way it started.”

Following a proposal to the Club Board, the Junior Membership subscription was reduced from €120 to €50.

“This is where a lot of clubs are missing the connection of getting girls into golf. You cannot charge children for a programme that’s only on for a few months the same as you would charge someone for a year. You give them a carrot, let them see why they would want to become a full junior member.”

The initial phase of activities included a four day summer camp, assisted by Anne McCormack of CGI. A programme of coaching and competition followed where local schools were invited to bring their pupils.

“We have a huge coaching programme with John, Pat and Stephen – we’re one of few clubs in Ireland who have three fully qualified PGA Professionals. We’re lucky in that regard as there will always be someone available to coach the juniors.”

“The support and unbelievable commitment of Dr. Declan Bedford, who is immersed in Junior Golf in Royal Tara and the help of a very supportive committee of women has also been a huge part of our success.”

Four years has past now and the club was rewarded this year when they became All-Ireland Girls’ Interclub Champions. Of 64 girls who were interested in 2015, the club currently has 41 girls as members.

“My hope for the future would be that we would keep the girls and boys playing. We want to keep it fun for them but also competition for children is great,” explains Farrell. “The GolfSixes introduced this year is a fantastic competition. My attitude to golf has always been that I don’t care who wins the prize, as long as they all compete and it’s fair for everyone.”

While it is clear that Farrell has made an impact at Royal Tara, she is modest in her response to just how impactful she has been.

“I don’t have daughters, I only have sons, so I don’t have a vested interest in any one of the girls. To me they’re all my girls. You become attached. They respect you and you respect them. Golf is brilliant, I have seen girls come out of their shell, and they’re gaining confidence, they gain respect for each other and for adults.”

Farrell will stand on the periphery as her girls get as close to the action at Gleneagles as they can, seeing their golfing heroes in the flesh.

“It’s their time to enjoy the game. For me, seeing that makes everything worth it.”

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