Portarlington 'delighted' to secure K Club final berth
Mount Juliet celebrates 25 years of existence this year, and once again provided a sylvan setting for the teams competing in the Allianz-Irish Independent Officer Golf Challenge regional qualifier.
The course, which was the brainchild of the late Tim Mahony, of Toyota Ireland fame, opened in 1991 and continues to go from strength to strength under new owners Tetrarch Capital.
A renowned championship venue, which hosted WGC tournaments in 2002 and '04, and the Irish Open three times, Mount Juliet has an enduring connection with our Officer Golf Challenge.
The Kilkenny parkland layout was on the roster for regional qualifiers in 1996, the first season of the Challenge, and now, in its 21st campaign, is still a prized venue for qualifying clubs.
As ever, the teams comprise a captain, lady captain and an honorary officer playing a Stableford format, with two scores to count on each hole.
Leading qualifier honours on the day belonged to the team from Portarlington GC, represented by captain John Gordon, lady captain Mary Kehoe and honorary secretary Tom Hainsworth.
Their total of 79 points pipped home club Mount Juliet, whose captain Pat Garvey, lady captain Helen Hedigan and honorary secretary Tom Duggan finished on 78 points.
Waterford came third with 76 points, scored by captain Gerry O'Keeffe, lady captain Assumpta O'Mahony and president Peter Finnegan.
Courtown's 75 points for fourth place was enough to clinch a place in the final at The K Club for captain Pat Walsh, lady captain Eileen Cullen and president Michael Carty.
Portarlington's hon secretary Tom Hainsworth has plenty of experience in this event, but until now had never been on a team which qualified for the final.
"I've been playing in it for years. I was president back in 2000 and secretary for the last five years, so I've played a load of times, but this is the first time I've ever been on a Portarlington team that got to the final. We're delighted," said Tom.
Portarlington turned in 36 points but stormed home with a fantastic 43 points in which all three dovetailed brilliantly.
Mount Juliet gave a good account of themselves to take second place and reach the final for the second successive year.
Honorary secretary Tom Duggan is the link man between the 2015 and 2016 teams.
Last year's captain Laurence Shields, lady captain Anne Murphy and Tom took third place in the final, so the challenge for this year's captain Pat and lady captain Helen is to avail of Tom's experience and once again get Mount Juliet into the prizes.
Waterford GC captain Gerry O'Keeffe has a strong connection with Mount Juliet as he served as caddie master at the club for 11 years up to 2008.
A former Irish seniors international and past winner of the Munster Seniors, Gerry, who plays off a handicap of five, had to stand back and let lady captain Assumpta O'Mahony and president Peter Finnegan take the plaudits on the 18th hole.
"We all dovetailed well, but I was out of it on that hole. Credit to them, the lady captain and the president both got a par on the 18th with a shot, and that six points got us through," he said.
Courtown looked down and out as they finished the first nine holes with just 30 points.
But as captain Pat Walsh related, they decided to change the energy by playing a skins game. That took the pressure off worrying about the overall score and they produced a sensational back nine of 45 points.
Lady captain Eileen and president Michael combined effectively with Pat, and a seven-pointer on the 18th, where the captain birdied the hole and Eileen got a par with a shot, rounded off a fine performance.
"It was good fun and the course was fantastic. Mount Juliet is a beautiful place," said Pat.
Anthony Shannon, director of claims for Allianz, welcomed the participants on behalf of the co-sponsors, and congratulated the club officers on their commitment to their clubs and to golf.
He also wished the Mount Juliet owners well on their development of the facilities, particularly the new golf clubhouse which is part of an overall €10m upgrade of the resort.