Fundraiser supreme Cecil drew the best out of everyone
Published 29/04/2016 | 02:30
Cecil Whelan left the stage quietly, as was his wont. No fanfare, no drama. Typically understated Cecil.
Those who knew him, which means everybody who is anybody in Irish golf, realised that at 80 years and a few months, the former honorary secretary of the famed Links Golf Society, could not last forever.
But still, his passing yesterday, peacefully, at the Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, surrounded by his loving family, came as a shock.
No more will those twinkling eyes light up as he recalls how truly great a player 'Senior' was, or how 'Rory's' response to a request for an appearance at a Links fundraiser was: 'What time do you want me there, Cecil?" He didn't 'do' full names, but it was never hard to work out who he was talking about. 'Pádraig', and a guy who, you would believe, had been christened: 'Des-isn't-he-great' so quickly did Cecil run the words together, were held in the highest esteem, as were so many of his friends and allies.
Cecil saw the best in people, drew the best out of people, and around his diminutive figure, he gathered billionaires, elite golfers, sport stars, business executives and showbiz personalities, all with one aim - to raise money for charity.
He stood for five-star in all the Links events which took place over a phenomenal 45 years from 1966 to 2011, raising, at a conservative estimate, €14 million for charities.
He stood for respect, always appreciative of the demands on the time of those he 'invited' to be part of the Links activities. I say 'invited' but really mean 'summoned' in the nicest way possible. When Cecil came calling, very rarely was the answer in the negative. Suffice to drop a few names into the mix - Bing Crosby, Val Doonican, Chris de Burgh, Eddie Jordan, Jack Nicklaus, Des Smyth, Pádraig Harrington, Christy O'Connor Senior and his late nephew, Christy Junior, Dr Michael Smurfit, JP McManus, Denis O'Brien, Liam Brady, Kevin Moran, Eamonn Coghlan, Mike Gibson, Katie Taylor, and Eoin 'Bomber' Liston.
To his eternal credit, Cecil never forgot past favours, and would make sure a place was found for former sponsors or friends. Almost as a by-the-way, he ran the family business started by his father, selling bicycles and prams from his premises in Dolphin's Barn, Dublin. A proud Dub, he loved all sports, but particularly golf. Cecil held a low single-figure handicap for most of his time at Newlands and later at Hermitage GC.
The Links Society, however, dominated his life. Cecil loved to see people have a good time, and in that respect, entertainment was always high on the agenda.
Well, Cecil is gone now, all too quickly. It was a privilege to have known him. He genuinely was a one-off.
To his wife Pauline, his children Yvonne, Lorraine, and Conor, his extended family and Cecil's many friends, we offer our deepest sympathy.