O'Donovan taking 'Obama approach' at Rosses Point
HISTORY is made and legends are born each Easter at the West of Ireland Championship at Rosses Point. And as one might expect of a club which hosts such an august event, Co Sligo is rich with tradition.
Yet the word you'll hear most around the classic links at Rosses Point these days is 'new' as the club meets head-on the challenges of recession.
New members are being accepted with no entry fee and a 'sub' of €552 for 2010. It has to be one of the deals of the new century.
The club has acquired planning permission for a new, state-of-the art driving range with six indoor and six outdoor bays.
They're adding four new tees (at the first, second, fourth and 18th holes) which will stretch the course by 78 metres in plenty of time for the visit of the Interprovincial Championships, Home Internationals and Carr-Mara matches with the US in 2011.
They've a new, open-door policy towards societies; have signed up a new caterer and are working hard on initiatives to re-establish the club bar as 'the new local' for members.
Visiting Rosses Point the other day for the official launch of this year's West of Ireland Championship, which is run in conjunction with Radisson Blu Hotel, it was impossible not to notice the vibrant, upbeat atmosphere surrounding the club.
Yet Co Sligo have been hit every bit as hard by the financial downturn as any of their fellows.
Eighteen months ago they embarked on a strict cost-cutting regime and, in common with dozens of other golf clubs, Co Sligo decided they didn't need a professional Secretary/Manager.
Yet as membership fell away and green fees plummeted by €125,000 to €275,000 in 2009, it soon became clear that a golf course, even an absolute classic like Rosses Point, won't sell itself.
So despite ever-tightening financial constraints, they took the brave decision last summer to hire a professional director of golf, leading to the appointment of David O'Donovan in January.
Co Sligo captain Pat Forkan, a retired fire chief, explained it wasn't a five-bell alarm, though they needed to act if their status as one of the premier clubs in the country was to be maintained.
"The appointment of a full-time director of golf would have led a lot of people to ask 'how can we afford this' but it was clear that we couldn't afford not to," he said.
For Rosses Point native O'Donovan, who grew up in the club and represented it in Senior Cup and Barton's Shield, the position is a dream come true.
A young family man with two children, he'd fallen victim to the recession early in 2009 when Castle Dargan decided they could do without a professional manager and terminated his employment after two and a half years.
With a business background in sales and marketing, O'Donovan is one of the new breed of golf directors ... like the recently appointed Vari McGreevy in Ballybunion and Lynn McCool at Lough Erne, he's brought an infectious enthusiasm to the job.
O'Donovan and his captain concede there's a lot of work to be done and recovery will not occur overnight. Yet as he re-establishes old links with tour operators; forges new marketing initiatives with golf clubs in the region and forms a relationship with the local business community and further afield, greens shoots are appearing.
If you'll permit a political simile, Co Sligo tried 'Cowenomics' but now are taking an Obama approach. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the nation's craven leaders followed suit.
Way to go, Co Sligo!