Carton house to become 'Croke Park' of club game
CASTLEBAR Golf Club hosted a successful and very well managed Bulmers GUI Cups and Shields festival last week -- but it could be the last of these finals to be staged in Connacht.
The long-standing rotation system, under which the Golfing Union of Ireland brought the Cups and Shields around the provinces, enters a wind-down phase from next year.
Castlerock will host the event in 2011, then it's the turn of Kinsale in 2012, followed by Royal Tara in 2013.
After that the festival is set for a four-year stay at Carton House from 2014-2017.
It's an interesting change. Will the Cups and Shields find a permanent home, turning Carton House into the 'Croke Park' of Irish golf, or will clubs around the country miss out by not getting the chance to stage the finals?
What did last week do for Castlebar Golf Club? For a start, being the hosts provided a marvellous focus for their centenary year, while also giving the club national exposure.
It also offered golfers, ranging from internationals to schoolboys at all ranges of handicaps, the chance to compete for national titles on a course they would probably never have visited otherwise.
The commitment required by the club is a factor and requires long-term planning.
Castlebar applied eight years ago for the finals and the staging called for a big volunteer effort.
They can be well pleased with their efforts and they could go down in history because the Cups and Shields won't go west again for at least eight years, if ever again.
GUI general secretary Seamus Smith outlined the reasons for the eventual switch to Carton House.
"After Castlerock, Kinsale and Royal Tara, the finals are going to Carton House for a trial period of four years, 2014 to 2017," said Smith.
"Carton House is the headquarters of the GUI. The National Academy is there, all the facilities are on-site and the hotel is on-site.
"Essentially, it's the home of Irish golf and we feel Carton could be the Croke Park of golf. We'll see how it goes. The clubs will decide if it's successful.
"If they decide that's what they like, then we will continue to stay there.
"With a trial period you just can't have one year. It will take four years to really give everyone a good idea how it works out.
"If it's successful, then it will continue, but at the end of the day, the decision will be made by how the clubs of Ireland feel. It's their festival."
Smith stressed that the clubs voted strongly in favour of the four-year trial at Carton House.
"They just all felt pretty much that it was a good idea.
"Carton House has become so well known as the headquarters of the GUI, with all the fantastic facilities that are there for them all, and they just love the idea of it," he said.
Sponsors Bulmers have backed the Cups and Shields for 19 years and their latest three-year deal ends this year.
The GUI and company representatives will discuss the future of the sponsorship before the end of the year.