Minogue's crucial birdie helps Nenagh retain title
THE scent of victory wafted across the September air for Tipperary as the team from Nenagh golf club triumphed in the final of the Allianz-Irish Independent Executive Trophy at The K Club.
And congratulations are due to the victorious trio of Nenagh captain Jim O'Sullivan, lady captain Mary Ryan, and honorary secretary Sean Minogue for an extra-special achievement.
In the 15-year history of this unique event, which brings a captain, lady captain and honorary officer to play among their peers, no club has managed back-to-back wins.
Was it an omen for the All-Ireland hurling final which was played just three days later?
Well, Jim, owner of the famed Rocky's pub in Nenagh, had been quietly confident about the prospects against Kilkenny, while Sean was rather more exuberantly confident.
But, either way, it's fair to say that the pints were flowing in Rocky's after the golf success and they are set to keep flowing for some time to come after Tipp's victory over Kilkenny.
Nenagh were the only team to break 80 on a marvellous day for golf over the historic Ryder Cup layout at Straffan.
A hot sunny day, fast greens, and the usual testing challenge posed by the Arnold Palmer design required good golf and that little bit of luck which any team needs to achieve success.
In the end, Nenagh's 81 points gave left them with three to spare over Castletroy, represented by captain Tony Sadlier, lady captain Mary O'Mahony and vice-captain Kevin Argue.
Just a point behind Castletroy in third place were County Tipperary, represented by captain Larry Keane, lady captain Liz Higgins, and vice-captain Eugene O'Meara. Another Tipp team in the prizes -- this was definitely a special few days for the Premier County.
Mount Juliet captain Jim Cusack, lady captain Sally Gleeson, and president Des Fitzgerald claimed fourth prize on 74 points.
The prizes were all well and good, but the emphasis on the day was enjoyment, and in that respect, all the teams were winners.
In addition to the golf, they were given quality service and excellent food served in the luxury five-star hotel, and, before the prize-giving, a short cabaret with the effervescent Kathy Nugent.
All in all, a lovely day out for the club officers -- which was the aim of co-sponsors Allianz and the Irish Independent.
Brendan Murphy, CEO of Allianz Ireland, was accompanied by colleagues Sean McGrath (sales operations director), Aidan O'Mahoney (director of risk management), and Donal Bollard.
Brendan, a keen golfer, praised the enthusiasm and commitment of the club officers to the game and to their clubs, and said: "We are delighted that you had such a lovely day at this wonderful venue and we wish you all the best for the remainder of your year in office."
Ultimately, the kudos belonged to Nenagh, and as events transpired, their formula for success was followed by the hurlers three days later -- a flying start, a little struggle in the middle, but an unbeatable finish.
Lady captain Mary Ryan lit up their challenge with a terrific birdie three on the par-four second hole to help secure a haul of five points for the team.
Mary's love of golf and her enjoyment of the day was evident in her emotionally-charged speech at the prize-giving.
She was entitled to be happy, as she only took up the game at the age of 50 -- 19 years ago -- and is competitive off a 16 handicap.
Nenagh turned with 44 points, and, though they didn't know it at the time, it was a close battle between themselves and Castletroy.
The Limerick team came to the 18th tee with 73 points in the bag. Nenagh had 75.
Tony Sadlier and Kevin Argue of Castletroy finished bogey six, par five respectively for five points and their 78 total. Mary Ryan of Nenagh got down in six for two points. Nenagh now had 77 points in the bag. The captain didn't score, and Sean Minogue's third shot had landed perilously close to the water.
Minogue was 30 yards from the pin with a mound to come over -- and he didn't spare the horses.
"I had to hit it hard to get over the mound. The ball flew across the green, hit the pin and dropped in. A birdie. It was unbelievable, because if it missed the pin it would still be travelling," said Minogue.
The birdie four for four points gave Nenagh the breathing space they needed to clinch their second win in a row.
Everyone involved was delighted to see event director Cecil Whelan back on his feet after a recent operation.
He took a back seat on the day, with Denis Keegan and John Kelliher looking after the smooth running of the final.
Incidentally, Donal Bollard of Allianz won the Captain's (Brian Treston) prize at Grange golf club last Saturday week.
Donal had a total of 133 nett off 20 handicap for his two rounds.
It was his first time to win the Captain's Prize since he joined the club 25 years ago and it's an extra special win because 2010 is the Grange club's centenary year.
But there's more -- on Monday last Donal became a grandfather. Truly a magical weekend.
81pts -- NENAGH (J O'Sullivan 17, M Ryan 16, S Minogue 21)
78pts -- CASTLETROY (T Sadlier 13, M O'Mahony 17, K Argue 12).
77pts -- CO TIPPERARY (L Keane 6, L Higgins 30, E O'Meara 13)
74pts -- MOUNT JULIET (J Cusack 12, S Gleeson 14, D Fitzgerald 21).