End of road for legendary Links
The sands of time have finally run out for the incredibly successful Links Golf Society. After 45 years of unprecedented fundraising success for charities through the auspices of celebrity Pro-Am events, Links GS secretary and founding member Cecil Whelan has announced a gala finale.
Tuesday, August 23 is the date when the Society will bid farewell to Irish golf.
The venue will be The K Club, and 100 guests will be treated to golf, a gala dinner and first-class entertainment as the Links says a big 'thank you for supporting us'.
It will be a special day, one that those intimately associated with the Society will relish with mixed emotions.
First and foremost, it will be a day of celebration of magnificent achievements, which include raising over €12m for charity.
And then there will be sadness, that yes, the days of the Links are finally ending.
Who can believe it? Well, for quite a number of years, members, friends and sponsors have wondered how long the Links could keep going, not least because of the reliance on Cecil Whelan.
Cecil is the first to acknowledge the huge contribution made by committee members since the Society began its existence in 1966, but equally, anyone close to the Links appreciates that Cecil has been essential to its success.
At 76, energetic and still bristling with ideas, Cecil has reluctantly had to accept that serious consideration had to be given to the Society's future.
Key lieutenants are retiring and the economic climate for attracting charitable contributions has changed.
"We've had a very good look at the situation, and, after 45 years, it has been generally agreed among the committee that the right thing to do is go out on a high," said Cecil.
"The Links has been graced by superb presidents in Christy O'Connor Snr and Des Smyth, and we have Padraig Harrington as vice-president.
"We've had excellent members, and a wonderful relationship with the European Tour and the Tour's Irish and international players for our Pro-Am events since the first one we staged in 1969.
"Sponsors have been loyal and generous. We set a standard of quality which we have maintained, and also had very ambitious targets for our fundraising which surpassed all expectations.
"None of us is getting any younger, and while there could be another couple of years in us, we don't want to risk any chance that the quality of the Links in any aspect could be compromised.
"Our intention is now to celebrate all that has been achieved by so many people who have contributed to the Links through the years, and we will do that on August 23 in the best manner possible on Ireland's Ryder Cup course at The K Club."
The Society began in a casual manner in the winter of 1966 when a group of professionals and amateurs got together at Baltray to have an outing and keep their game in shape.
Three professionals -- Christy Snr, Watty Sullivan and Jimmy Kinsella -- and 27 low-handicap amateurs played in the first event.
Twenty-nine sat down to dinner and we took in £13 and 10 shillings old money.
"After that outing we decided to do it for charity and, as we always played on a links course -- Baltray was our base for the first eight years -- we called it the Links Society," said Cecil.
"The second outing was a month later and we charged £1 to play and we had 80 people there.
"We had £25 left over and at the end of our first season we gave Cappagh Hospital a cheque for £300.
"Bear in mind, you could buy a house for around £1,000 at that time, so it was good money for charity."
The rest is history -- an illustrious history.
When the last putt drops on August 23, and the last song is sung in The K Club that evening, be assured we will not see the likes of the Links again.