Friday 23 August 2019

Americans forced to hand over Dell tolls

Paul McGinley. Photo: John Dickson/Sportsfile
Paul McGinley. Photo: John Dickson/Sportsfile

Dermot Gilleece

We're waiting for a hole-in-one on the fifth, Lahinch's beloved Dell. Paul McGinley whetted appetites by his pre-tournament prediction: "I'll be pretty surprised if there's not a hole-in-one there this week. Really surprised." And defending champion, Russell Knox, was of similar mind.

Granted, there's no grand prize; that's reserved for the short 16th which carries the reward of a €100,000 BMW motor-car. But balls can drop with impunity on the fifth, unlike the situation in the 1960s when the club's legendary secretary/manager, Brud Slattery, felt moved to take punitive action against recurring aces.

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In new-year discussions, the club's caddie-master, Johnny Barrett, was given the clear instruction: "These holes-in-one will have to stop. I don't want to hear of another one this year."

It will come as no surprise that all of the aces were reported at The Dell, the old sixth which became the new, short fifth under the radical upgrading by architect, Martin Hawtree, over the Millennium.

With its character involving a blind tee-shot over a towering dune, caddies could dupe their American employers into thinking they had scored a hole-in-one, which would be good for a $10 tip.

With aces being reported two and three times each week, however, Slattery decided to call a halt.

The upshot was the country's first industrial agreement involving caddies. And so as to compensate for loss of hole-in-one revenue, it was agreed they would receive an increase from 17 shillings and sixpence to £1 per round. So, peace was restored to the craft of caddying at the popular Clare resort.

Joe O Muircheartaigh, editor of The Clare People, did some fine research in preparation for this week, among which was some additional information about The Dell.

Particularly interesting were the exploits of a Clones businessman named Jimmy Magee. An impressive run by Magee in the 1960 South of Ireland Championship, was ended in the fourth round by local man, Peadar Skerritt, but not before Magee had left his mark. It is claimed locally that nobody, before or since, has matched Magee's exploits at The Dell that year. Noted as a dynamic putter, the Clones man played the blind one-shotter in figures of 1,2,2,2 over his four rounds.

Knox was a lot more modest in his aspirations. "I'm going to be one of those people who enjoy playing it," he said on the eve of battle.

"It's a great little hole and I'll take four threes there, right now."

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