Cork team keep the home fires burning at Little Island
Cork Golf Club's team kept the home fires burning brightly as they took the honours in the southern regional qualifier of the Allianz-Irish Independent Officer Golf Challenge held at Little Island.
Club captain Damian Wallace, lady captain Maeve Hickey and president Jim Lucey combined to shoot a winning total of 79 points on the two-to-count stableford format over their home course.
Cork GC, established in 1888, and with a history of hosting national championships and producing famous players, including the great Jimmy Bruen, was in fine shape for our event.
This, despite the heavy rain that fell during the morning, which would have deterred fair-weather golfers from taking on the challenge.
These club officers are made of stern stuff, as all the qualifying teams started their round in the worst of the weather and came through to clinch their places in the final at The K Club on Monday, August 29.
Second-placed East Cork, represented by captain John Morrison, lady captain Anne O'Connell and president JJ Sheehan, scored 74 points.
They were closely followed home by Monkstown (captain Carl Toal, lady captain Deirdre McCarthy, and president Pat O'Donnell) on 73 points.
The team from Fota Island Resort came fourth with 72 points. Captain Fearghal Hayes led the way, and was ably backed up by husband and wife Mary (lady captain) and Phil Vaughan (president).
This was a poignant occasion for the team behind the Challenge, as event director Cecil Whelan had passed away unexpectedly on April 28.
Although he was aged 80, Cecil retained his passion for the competition which is now in its 21st consecutive year, and he was in situ for the first qualifier of 2016 which was held in The Links Portmarnock on April 12.
Peter Kilcullen, director of sales for Allianz, paid tribute to Cecil for his long commitment to the Challenge and expressed his condolences to event manager Denis Keegan, brother-in-law of Cecil.
However, the best way of paying tribute to Cecil was for the captains, lady captains and honorary officers who played at Cork GC to enjoy the golf and the friendly competition, and to relax in the company of their peers over the excellent dinner held in the clubhouse afterwards.
That is the spirit and enthusiasm which the co-sponsors Allianz and Irish Independent wish to see flourish among the participants, and such was the case at Cork.
For the home team, despite the advantage of playing in familiar surroundings, Damian, Maeve, and Jim had their own challenges.
On the day before our Officer Challenge, Cork had won the Munster section of the Ladies Senior Cup for the first time in ten years.
Lady captain Maeve, wife of Cork club professional Peter Hickey, was delighted, as were all the members.
Captain Damian, who played on the Glen Rovers team which won the Cork senior hurling title in 1989 - the next win by the club was last year, 2015 - commented: "The golf today, we all did our bit, but the president played very, very well. Maeve obviously made her contribution and I managed to get on the card the odd time as well.
"We're delighted, especially as we came in not thinking that our score would be enough to qualify, to be honest. The course was quite difficult in terms of the greens were very quick.
"Maeve had her celebrations after the Senior Cup and we had a match against Lahinch the same day, so we had a lot on over the weekend.
"That might have helped, because we weren't worrying too much about the golf today."
Second-placed East Cork were tightly handicapped, with captain John and president JJ off 12, and lady captain Anne playing off 13.
They played consistently, scoring nines of 37, 37, for their 74.
"It was a fantastic day out," said John. "We dovetailed brilliantly. The shot of the day was Anne's third to the 18th which lipped out. It's a real bonus to be going to The K Club."
Monkstown finished just a point adrift of East Cork. At the halfway stage, they had garnered just 31 points, so their back nine of 42 was particularly impressive.
Captain Carl Toal quipped: "We had a big pep talk after nine. I told them to stick with the plan - but we were on Plan D at that stage.
"But seriously, we can't believe it. I suppose we proved resilient in the end and everyone stood up to the plate.
"We were well off the mark after nine, so it's a great reward to get through to the final," he added.
Fota Island lady captain Mary Vaughan was left holding the prize on her own for the photographs, as the captain Fearghal, and Mary's husband Phil, had to leave early to attend to club business.
"We're very involved in the club for the year and it's working out very well. Phil was involved with the club from the beginning, and I only joined when my daughters grew up, but I'm enjoying the golf and the club," said Mary.
79 pts - Cork (D Wallace 5, M Hickey 13, J Lucey 16)
74 pts - East Cork (J Morrison 12, A O'Connell 13, JJ Sheehan 12)
73 pts - Monkstown (C Toal 10, D McCarthy 17, P O'Donnell 18)
72 pts - Fota Island (F Hayes 6, M Vaughan 22, P Vaughan 11)