Tramore tops at Mount Juliet
It was sunny side up for the team from the South East as Tramore topped the leaderboard in the ALLIANZ-IRISH INDEPENDENT Officer Golf Challenge at magnificent Mount Juliet.
The Tramore captain David Jackman, honorary secretary (and well-known sports broadcaster) Ray Scott, and lady captain Breda Canty brought home the pennant and the Waterford Crystal mementos awarded to the leading qualifiers.
Their score of 70 points, on a two-to-count stableford basis, gave Tramore a three-shot cushion over Naas, The Heath and Birr, all on 67 points and separated only by a countback for second, third and fourth places.
Of course, the main reward for all four teams is a place in the final at The K Club on Thursday, September 3, but the non-qualifiers had no complaints.
Any day you're invited to play the superb Jack Nicklaus-designed championship layout at Mount Juliet, and then treated to an excellent dinner afterwards is a good one.
Allianz CEO Brendan Murphy welcomed the guests and paid tribute to their service to Irish golf.
"We commend you all for your service to your golf clubs in difficult times, and we wish you well for the rest of your time in office," he said.
He also thanked Mount Juliet, represented by golf manager Francis Reynolds, and by captain Laurence Shields, lady captain Anne Murphy, and president Tom Duggan, for the warm welcome and the excellence of the service and facilities provided to the participants.
A strong breeze and a spatter of rain here and there made for better playing conditions than were forecast.
That, plus the condition of the greens and the course which was so well prepared by course superintendent Aidan O'Hara and his team, meant it was over to the golfers to perform.
On the day, none did so better than Tramore.
Captain David (9), lady captain Breda (36) and hon secretary Ray started on the first tee and had nines of 34/36 for the total.
"We just went out to enjoy ourselves and when we totted up the score we didn't think we'd have a chance, so we're absolutely delighted to win and to be going to The K Club," said David.
"The course played long. I don't think I've ever played it off the whites, so it was a great test of golf. This is totally unexpected, but it's great.
"I want to commend the sponsors, Allianz and the Irish Independent for their long commitment to this event."
Tramore is the venue for the Irish Close championship from August 18-22, so the course will be in fine fettle for the arrival of the GUI elite golfers.
Naas were represented by captain Gerry Berrigan (13), lady captain Colette Osborne (23) and president Har Hannigan (17), and it was a special day for Gerry as he scored the second hole-in-one of his career on the par-three 11th hole at Mount Juliet.
Naas had started on the 10th tee, so Gerry had not had much time to warm up before he faced a 130-yard shot to the flagstick on the elevated green with water guarding the approach.
"I was looking up the strokesaver and it said the whole thing was to be up there, and don't be short. So I took a seven-iron and hit it on. I saw it bounce on the green and next thing I saw it disappear," he said.
"The team ahead of us started to cheer, so I was delighted. It was the second hole in one of my career. The first was about 25 years ago when I'd just started playing golf and it was in Corballis."
The Heath also recorded 67 points and their team was men's captain Dermot Carolan (9), Kate Brickley (30), who is the overall club captain under the Portlaoise club's commendable equality policy, and honorary treasurer Tom Tyrell, who plays off three handicap.
They started on the first tee, and played consistent golf, scoring 34/33 for their nines.
"In a game like this everybody contributes, and that's how it worked out for us today. We really enjoyed ourselves," said captain Dermot.
The Heath has a busy time ahead with open week from August 8-16 and then the club hosts the Irish Boys U-16 championship from August 19-21.
Birr's team of captain Des McDowell (23), lady captain Pauline Needham (22) and president Frank Kenny (20), started on the 10th tee and took a while to get into their stride as they turned with only 31 points.
But on the front nine, their inward half, the Offaly club trio knuckled down and produced 36 points to clinch their place in the final.
The highlight was a seven pointer on the par-four, index 4 second hole, their 11th, on which Des had five for three points, and Pauline got a par for four.
As always, the organisation of the day was handled smoothly by event director Cecil Whelan and event manager Denis Keegan.