Umbrella body set to open new horizons
GOLF in Ireland is bound for new horizons if those attending the GUI annual delegate meeting give the go-ahead for change and participation in a new umbrella body for the game in Ireland.
The ADM takes place at Carton House on February 22 and among the motions for discussion is one which will require an alteration to the union's constitution.
If the change is approved, it will open the way for the GUI to join the ILGU and the PGA in the proposed Confederation of Golf in Ireland.
The CGI would be an umbrella body with two representatives coming from the GUI, two from the ILGU and one from the PGA, with an independent chairman.
It's not golfing unity, a topic which has been raised for discussion a number of times since the mid-90s, even though the Irish Sports Council and the Northern Ireland Sports Council would most likely approve of one body catering for men, women and professionals to streamline funding programmes.
That unified model is a feature of the game in most European countries.
It won't apply to Ireland in the foreseeable future, though, even if the men's and women's amateur governing bodies have merged in England, Wales, New Zealand, Australia and Canada.
Integration, however, does not always result in harmony and happiness for all parties and at last month's ILGU AGM, a number of points were made which, from the women's point of view, would make them cautious about total unification.
These issues included reports that boards in merged organisations are struggling to attract and retain female members; a sense that the voice of female golf has been lost; and observations that female representation on international bodies has been reduced.
In Ireland, the GUI, ILGU and PGA would continue to run their normal business, but would collaborate on areas of mutual interest under the CGI banner.
Golf, and golf clubs are under severe financial pressure, and it makes sense to co-ordinate ideas and strategies to develop the game, particularly among young people.
There are plenty of topics for discussion, including:
• golf as an Olympic sport in 2016.
• Funding application to the Sports Councils (ISC gives around €800,000 to golf in total per annum, NI Sports Council gives £84,000 to Ulster golf).
• supporting clubs to increase membership.
• a joint plan by the GUI and ILGU to host the World Amateur Championships in 2018.
The men and women's unions in this country have co-operated in many areas over the last 15 years, not least in the roll-out of the computerised handicapping system and in Junior Golf Ireland, alongside the PGA.
They are the oldest male and female golf unions in the world – the GUI was established in 1891, and the ILGU in 1893.
Incidentally, Sheena McElroy enjoyed a nice early season taste of international success when she won the Portuguese Seniors Amateur Championship.
Mary Madden (Ballinasloe) and Kate Evans (Frilford Heath) both finished in the top 10 and Team Ireland won the Nations Cup.