Sport Golf

Saturday 24 March 2018

GAA legends on course to find old buzz for charity

Sean MacMahon (President GUI), Sean Hehir ( Managing Director Chartis Insurance Irl), and Liam Kelly (Irish Independent) display the new GUI members card sponsored by Chartis and The Irish Independent. Distribution to all clubs is under way. Photo: Adrian Melia.
Sean MacMahon (President GUI), Sean Hehir ( Managing Director Chartis Insurance Irl), and Liam Kelly (Irish Independent) display the new GUI members card sponsored by Chartis and The Irish Independent. Distribution to all clubs is under way. Photo: Adrian Melia.

IS there life after the emotional peaks and troughs of an inter-county GAA career? "Yes" is the answer, and it's to be found on the golf course. Top stars have been finding an outlet for their competitive juices after retirement from hurling and football by taking to the small-ball game in huge numbers.

And now the Association is recognising the efforts of past players by endorsing the GAA Legends All-Ireland Charity Golf Inter-county Championships, to be played at the FBD-owned La Cala Resort in Spain from Wednesday, May 12 to Saturday, May 15.

In two years, the event, for which all participants pay their own way, has raised over €155,000 for charities.

This year's tournament contingent of four-man teams representing all 32 counties, is expected to bring that total to around €220,000.

Former Meath star Bernard Flynn and Galway football manager Joe Kernan are chairperson and secretary respectively of the event organisation.

"I'm very proud as a past player to be part of this. After this year, the third year, we will have brought back something in the region of €220,000 over the three years to charities which mean an awful lot to us in our local communities," said Flynn.

"That's who we play for, as well as indulging the old competitive edge again in a little less emotive environment than we had on the field. But we are competitive, and we do enjoy it.


"It's an official charity on the GAA calendar from now on, so we're very grateful to GAA President Christy Cooney and past President Nickey Brennan for their help," he said.

Flynn plays off a handicap of nine out of Mullingar GC, but has been out of action for almost 10 months due to a hip replacement operation.

Kernan, who led Armagh to their first All-Ireland title in 2002, is a relatively late convert to golf.

He said: "I played for my county for 17 years and went into management, and when I quit managing after 15 years, I felt an awful vacuum in my life, that there was nothing to get stuck into.

"Certainly the golf gives players who do quit something to look forward to. It's something that I really enjoy. I enjoy the golf and the charity end of it.

"And then you're meeting boys that you didn't meet for 10 or 12 years, unless it was at a match some time, and that doesn't happen that often."

Kernan's golfing opportunities will be reduced this year now that he is back in management with Galway, but when he's on the fairways, he is competitive.

"I play off 20. I have a hurley grip and I can only use a five-iron off the teebox. On my good days I can be competitive, but on the bad days, it's a totally different story," he said.

"I don't play enough and that's the bottom line. I'm a member of Concra Wood, a new course in Castleblayney.

"It's absolutely gorgeous, a fantastic course and on a good day it's as nice as anywhere you'd get in the country."

Waterford's Paul Flynn began playing golf in 1994, and joined Faithlegg in 1995.

Initially he had a starting handicap of 16. Now the 35-year-old Ballygunner club member is a one-handicap who has played in the top inter-club competitions including Barton Shield and Senior Cup for Faithlegg.

"I went from 16 to 12, then 12 to nine, then nine to six and I was on four handicap for three or four years, and then got down to one last year," he said.

"There's a core of us from the Waterford team who used to play a lot -- Eoin Murphy, Dave Bennett, Micheal White and myself.

"We were probably at a bit of a disadvantage in that we never had time to practise. We just played and enjoyed the game."

Cooney is a 14 handicap member of Youghal GC. "I like a game of golf but in the last two years I've had no time to play. I play off 14, but I'd be a poor 14 at this stage, said the GAA President.

"In relation to the GAA Legends event, I went up to Mullingar last year for the presentation of cheques to the various charities and I was blown away by the response of the charities and the work that they have been doing.

"I know we're in challenging economic times and that makes it all the more important for the Association to support this Charity Tournament," he said.

Former Tour star McCool lands Lough Erne post

FORMER Ladies Tour player Lynn McCool has been appointed director of golf and head professional at the prestigious Lough Erne Resort in Fermanagh.

"I'm absolutely thrilled. Lough Erne is the most talked-about golf venue in the industry and I'm delighted to be joining the team.

"We have some big plans for the season ahead including the opening of our state-of-the-art Faldo Academy in June."

A former competitor on the Ladies European, Asian and South African Tours, McCool (37) has been a qualified professional for over 10 years.

She has previously worked as PGA teaching pro and later director of golf at Hilton Templepatrick and as head professional at The K Club.

Lough Erne Resort opened in October 2007. It has two courses, including one designed by Nick Faldo, and extensive hotel, restaurant and spa facilities. Lough Erne also sponsor Rory McIlroy.

Irish Independent

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