Saunders' family affair bags honours for Woodenbridge
A special family connection was central to the Woodenbridge club's success in the 2013 Irish Independent/Allianz Officer Golf Challenge final at The K Club.
Husband and wife, Kevin and Siobhan Saunders, teamed up with the Woodenbridge captain Mark Burke to claim overall victory.
The margin was just one point – they scored 77 points on the two-to-count Stableford format to pip Portumna's 76 – but it was just enough to bring home the top prize.
Lady captain Siobhan said: "We're absolutely thrilled to win this great event. It is one of the highlights of our year and we have enjoyed it immensely."
Her husband Kevin, vice-captain of Woodenbridge, plays off eight handicap, so he and captain Mark (9), did not have many shots to spare on the beautifully set up Palmer Course. However, a blend of experience and concentration by all three members of the County Wicklow team ensured that consistent nines of 38/39 were compiled for the winning total.
From the Saunders family's point of view, the dual involvement as club officers has worked out very well. Kevin will be the 2014 men's captain of Woodenbridge and hopes to match the standard set by Siobhan in her year as lady captain.
"We're having great fun. She is doing a fantastic job. I hope that next year I can be even a quarter of how good she is. I'm really proud of her," said Kevin.
Centenary club Portumna, represented by captain Martin Carty, lady captain Pauline McEvoy and honorary secretary Leslie O'Meara could hardly have come closer to the title, but fell just a point short on 76.
They had one enforced change from their recent win at the Galway Bay qualifier, as club president Suzanne Corcoran was on duty with the Irish team which won the European Senior Ladies Team Championships.
Meanwhile, Leslie O'Meara stepped in for Portumna to good effect, and featured on the card 18 times.
"We did our best and the main thing was we enjoyed ourselves," said captain Martin.
Birr's team of John Irwin (captain), lady captain Susan Reidy and president Richard Johnston also scored 76 points and came third on a countback.
Royal Tara – captain Noel Rowland, lady captain Alice Collier and honorary course secretary Ray Reynolds – finished up on 74 points for fourth place.
Honorable mention must go to the teams from Malahide (Bill Lowe, Sadie Burke, Robert Doyle); Tuam (Gerry Murphy, Jacqui McGrath, Bernard O'Brien), and Ballybunion (Michael Barry, Maria Shanahan, Sean Kennelly).
These three clubs all finished on 74 points, but Royal Tara came through on a countback to take fourth prize. This performance was the icing on the cake for the Royal Tara trio and was a nice boost ahead of the GUI Cups and Shields finals at their club. These finals are the showpiece of the GUI club scene.
Captain Noel said: "To get among the prizes at The K Club is a real bonus and now we look forward to the Cups and Shields.
"We're confident the club and the course will put on a good show. It promises to be a great festival of golf."
The K Club team of captain Allan Crinion, lady captain Noreen O'Grady and honorary secretary Seamus Tully scored 71 points, and were not far off the prizes.
Captain Allan welcomed the participants and quipped: "We thought it would be unsporting of the host club to win, so being good sports we pulled back quite well!
"On a serious note, it has been a great day and thanks to the sponsors and congratulations to all the winners."
Brendan Murphy, the Group CEO of Allianz, thanked the host clubs who staged the qualifying events – Portmarnock Links, Malone, Adare Hotel and Golf Resort, Mount Juliet and Galway Bay. He also expressed everyone's gratitude to K Club chief executive Michael Davern for the excellence of the course and the quality of service and facilities at the venue.
In terms of sponsorship, Brendan also noted: "This event would not be the same without the excellent presentation and reports that appear in the Irish Independent, and we thank our co-sponsors for their continued support."
In closing, Brendan commented: "Congratulations also to Cecil Whelan and Denis Keegan who have done a fantastic job in ensuring the smooth running of the qualifying rounds and the final.
"I would also like to say that we're already getting very excited about the Ryder Cup next year because the European captain, Paul McGinley, has been a brand ambassador for Allianz for more than 20 years."
To round off a memorable occasion, the finalists were treated to an excellent post-dinner cabaret performance by top entertainer Kathy Nugent.