Champions Portumna rise to challenge at Galway Bay
Galway Bay Golf Resort basked in beautiful sunshine for the recent visit of the Allianz-Irish Independent Officer Golf Challenge on a day when short sleeves and plenty of sunblock were mandatory.
This was the final qualifier in the 2016 campaign, which is the 21st season of this unique event.
The quality of the Resort on and off the course was impressive, particularly the €1m clubhouse which opened last year.
All that was required of the captains, lady captains and honorary officers was to focus on their golf, free of the day-to-day responsibilities that come with club commitments.
The par-72 layout which plays to a 74-par for women kept our teams focused all the way.
Shots off-line got caught up in deceptively clingy rough, the greens were pacey, and club selection was paramount, especially on the par-threes which required long carries.
Portumna - captain Mick Keyes (12), lady captain Mary McElroy (21) and club president Mary Conwell (29) - were leading qualifiers with 80 points.
Captain Mick was truly blessed among women as the Portumna trio took the pennant back to the club, matching the performance of their 2015 counterparts Matt Donohoe, Ann Fahy and Ger Brehony, who won last year's Western regional qualifier held at Glasson.
Bearna, represented by captain Kieran Bowden (7), lady captain Clare Cunningham (24) and president Tim Tarpey (12) were next best on 78 points.
They started off the 10th tee, and had only 35 points in the bag at the turn, but a strong performance on their back nine for 43 points saw them safely through to the final.
Enniscrone came third on 71 points, courtesy of a better back nine than Castlebar, who also had 71.
Emmet Loftus (11), captain of Enniscrone, was delighted with the performance of his team colleagues, lady captain Ann Helly O'Connor (20) and president Richard Cloonan (13).
Castlebar brought a husband and wife combination to the cause, with lady captain Ilish McGing (22) and honorary secretary Michael McGing (14) accompanied by club captain Frank Murray (14).
Michael has previous experience of this event - he was on the Castlebar team which won the final two years ago.
His team-mates then were the 2014 captain Paul Kilcourse and lady captain Dolores Towey.
Anthony Shannon, director of claims, and former Dublin footballer Ciaran Whelan represented Allianz at the Galway Bay event, with the evergreen Donal Bollard, the 2016 captain of Grange GC in Dublin, and event manager Denis Keegan ensuring the smooth running of the competition.