Historic occasion as Tom Watson is elected Captain of Ballybunion GC
HISTORIC the occasion most certainly was and, of course, there was also
the attendant euphoria that attracted the biggest attendance at the annual
general meeting of Ballybunion Golf Club on Friday night.
When we mention historic we are, of course, referring to 1999 Captain Fintan
Scannell and his forward thinking committee, who came up with the brilliant
idea of inviting one of the world’s top golfers, Tom Watson, to be the club’s
The very presence of the great man
was a major attraction for the huge attendance of 446 members, especially
in view of the fact that there was nothing contentious up for discussion.
The meeting was timed for 7pm, but with the unexpected large crowd turning
up for registration, matters did not get underway until 7.30pm.
The opening three items, along with the Honorary Secretary’s / Secretary
Manager’s report, were all speedily dealt with, after which the meeting
turned to the Honorary Treasurer’s report.
This was the bottom line affair, which showed the club recording its biggest
surplus ever. For the first time, profits were recorded in all
sectors of club activity, outlined as follows:
Bar net profit, £52,500; Golf shop net profit, £307,000; Catering net profit,
£6,200; Subscriptions, green fee, net profit, £309,000; Overall net profit
for 1999, £675,000.
This superb figure was a whopping £200,000 in excess of the previous year,
but as Treasurer Joe Guerin and Captain Fintan Scannell pointed out,
this extremely satisfactory state of affairs was not to be expected in 2000,
as some severe expense would have to be incurred by the club, what with
the loss of green fee income due to the Irish Open, much work in the
preparation of the old course for the event and the erection of a proper
entrance to the club.
The plan for this is now on the notice board, featuring an automatic entrance
gate with a delightfully designed stone wall on either side. On the day
of the meeting, work had already commenced.
There was only one motion, by the committee, looking for an addition to
Rule 4 to the effect `that the
trustees shall hold office for a term of five years initially and may hold
office for a maximum of ten years’. No difficulty here, as the meeting
fully approved of the motion.
Any other business was perhaps the most interesting part of the meeting,
with many members contributing.
Former Captain, Tom McKeon, told the meeting that
Newcastle West had offered free facilities to the club members prior to
the Irish Open and the Captain revealed that Kilrush, on the other side of the
ferry, had also extended a similar offer. Details would be on the notice
board in due course.
There were also strong feelings expressed regarding time spaces in the
major timesheets, with several members looking for two days to play. The
Captain explained that the shotgun starts have, overall, proved very
successful and that this year there could be four.
Making an early contribution, Tom Watson said it could be that two days
could be allotted to his prize day $= and he left it at that.
The Winter Leagues also came under fire, more so with the changing weather
and it was even suggested that with Met Eireann’s high degree of accuracy,
decisions about playing could be made the day before. As there was deep
interest in the question, the Captain said the matter was being considered
by the committee’s special sub-committee.
There was a lot of interest in the rule relating to members playing with
guests, with the Captain explaining that while not the best, the present
system was working.
Concern was also expressed that the club should be careful, in case, as had
happened in other clubs, the ordinary Irish golfer’s green fee would be
priced out. The Captain was very happy to report that the matter was very much
in the minds of the committee $= hence no increase for the millennium!
Then it was on to the election of officers. The Captain read a letter
from the man responsible for bringing Tom Watson to
Ballybunion in the first place, former USGA President, Sandy Tatum.
Watson’s development of his relationship with Ballybunion, culminating
in his becoming the Club Captain. Ballybunion and Tom Watson are a perfect
match! How true, indeed.
The Captain bestowed the Millennium 2000 maroon jacket on Tom Watson and
a standing ovation followed.
In response, Tom Watson said it was the moment he had been waiting for.
Watson reiterated his debt of gratitude to his old friend Sandy Tatum,
for affording him the privilege of playing over such a superb course $=
it was a priority for him to play it each year.
He regretted he could not be on hand for the Murphy’s Irish Open, but said
he would be very heavily involved in getting the course in top shape for the
tournament, with some subtle changes already underway.
Referring to the Cashen Course, he said this was a wonderful jewel in the
Ballybunion crown, but the club must consider making it more player friendly.
As it is, it’s extremely difficult to play, but it would cost a bit to do.
He felt it was an expense that should be incurred.
Long time member and veteran Junior Cup player, Maurice Clarke, made the
point that the first hole on the Cashen Course was wrongly designed, as its
original design off the tee saw to it that the shots played out of bounds!
Captain Tom replied that recent changes had changed all that and that the
problem with the controversial hill on the right of the first could be
solved by a properly placed white stone marker.
Referring to some unsightly fixtures at the back of the Old Course’s 15th,
Maurice asked Tom if he had ever played Killarney’s O’Mahony’s Point 15th,
where there was fine evidence of nice tree planting. The Captain said he
hadn’t played the hole.
Brendan O’Sullivan was Watson’s choice as Vice Captain and Brendan said
he looked forward to enjoying a great millennium with the five times British
The new President of Ballybunion is none other than MEP, Abbeyfeale’s own
Gerard Collins, who said he was deeply honoured and privileged to be
associated with so many wonderful people.
Officers elected were:
Gents: Captain, Tom Watson; Vice Captain, Brendan O’Sullivan; President,
Gerard Collins; Vice President, Kieran Harris; Hon Secretary, DG O’Connor;
Hon Treasurer, Joe Guerin.
Ladies: Captain, Kay McCarthy; Vice Captain, Maureen Dillane; Lady President,
Outgoing Captain, Fintan Scannell, and his successor, Tom Watson, were loud
in their praise of all the office staff, led by Margaret Hughes; course
staff, led by Dan Blake; bar and catering by Tom Ferriter; shop staff, Brian
O’Callaghan and finally club Secretary / Manager, Jim McKenna.
TOM WATSON DINNER: The new Captain arrived on Thursday to
attend a special dinner in his honour at the club, which was attended by
no less than 71 Past Captains and Presidents, both ladies and gents, along
with members of the club’s current committee.
Catering manager Tom Ferriter, chef Eleanor Walsh and their
hard-working staff excelled themselves by presenting a superb meal, truly
worthy of the occasion.
Pianist Mary Duffy from Birr provided the accompaniment for a sing song
in which the ladies were the driving force.
Fintan Scannell told of the occasion he phoned Tom Watson with a view to
asking him to be the club’s Millennium Captain. He felt Tom might have to
take time before making his decision, but was really shocked and dumbfounded,
when he said `yes’ there and then.
Watson was presented with a superb painting of the 15th hole (tee to green,
Old Course) by the 1981 Captains, Maurice Fahy and Anna O’Brien. That was
Tom’s first year coming to Ballybunion. The painting, by young Scottish
painter, William Gradison, depicts the great hole at its best, with the
wild Atlantic in the background.
The incoming Captain said the painting was something special as it helped
to put real images on record.
He recalled the time when he was having a pint in Harty / Costello’s Bar
in Ballybunion when he received a phone call from President Clinton to
come and play with him when the President came to Ballybunion in 1998.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t accept the invitation. He added that the President
loved to play for Mulligans $= now figure that one out!
He concluded by saying that he was honoured to be in such illustrious company
and said he was privileged to be Captain of the country’s first golf course
and where, on the day, he had completed his round of golf in just three
hours, having shot 78 off the very back tee markers!
It was a superb night, indeed, and it was great to see such
wonderful former officers as Johnny Moriarty, Jack McKenna, Sean Walsh,
John McNamara, Peggy Walsh, Anne Corridan and Peggy O’Connor, Florence D
O’Connor, Dan Murphy and David O’Sullivan, $= the three of whom were
Captains when the club won two Pierce Purcell and one Jimmy Bruen Shield.