Portumna celebrate a glorious K Club triumph
The years roll on but the quality and the popularity of the evergreen Irish Independent-Allianz Officer Golf Challenge is an enduring feature of the season.
This event, which brings together club captains, lady captains and honorary officers to compete in regional qualifying prior to the final at The K Club, began in 1996.
Twenty seasons later, almost 2,000 club officers have been involved in the Challenge and throughout that time, the Palmer Course at The K Club has hosted the final.
That, in itself, is a prize as any opportunity to tread the fairways where the greats of golf have performed in the European Open and the Ryder Cup is something to be treasured.
Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Bernhard Langer and our own stars such as Padraig Harrington, Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke have featured on the Palmer Course, and the challenge to our captains, lady captains and honorary officers was to do justice to the surroundings.
None did it better than the team from Portumna Golf Club, who emerged victorious with 77 points.
Captain Matt Donohoe, lady captain Anne Fahy and club president Ger Brehony followed up their success as leading qualifiers in Glasson with a winning performance to take back the pennant awarded to the champions and the Waterford Crystal mementos.
The Galway team played consistent golf, scoring nines of 39-38.
Lady captain Anne, a former camogie All-Ireland winner with Galway, was elected as team spokesperson.
"We are shocked. We did not think we would be in with a chance of winning, but we are really delighted," she said.
"It has been a fantastic day, and very enjoyable. None of us played the course before and it's a great course to play."
The team from Adare Manor Hotel & Golf Resort was not far off the pace on 74 points.
Captain John Horgan, lady captain Finola O'Donnell and honorary secretary Pat McNamara represented one of the five top-class host venues of this event.
They battled hard for their score and came very close to pushing Portumna for the title.
Adare were tightly handicapped, with captain John off six and Pat playing off eight, while Finola competed off 23.
Out in 37 points, the Limerick team maintained a good momentum until they came to the par-four 17th.
This was the hole where Thomas Bjorn suffered a horrendous 11, hitting three balls in the water, in the 2007 European Open.
The Adare Manor team faltered there, taking only one point courtesy of the lady captain.
Three points on the last brought them another 37 points for 74 overall.
Mount Juliet, represented by captain Laurence Shields, lady captain Anne Murphy, and president Tom Duggan came third on 73 points.
The team from the lush parkland layout which has staged so many top events, including the Irish Open and the WGC American Express championships, maintained steady progress throughout their round.
Mount Juliet started on the 10th tee and were out in 36 points.
Their inward half yielded 37 points and lady captain Anne commented: "Our president Tom played superb golf and the captain and I did our best to support him, but the main thing was that this was a very enjoyable day. It was great to be part of the occasion."
Cork GC also registered 73 points, finishing fourth by virtue of a countback.
The team - captain Fergal Deasy, lady captain Katherine O'Kelly Lynch and president Robin Turnbull - were also tightly handicapped, as Fergal plays off one, Robin off seven and Katherine is off 15.
"I haven't played at The K Club for about seven years and I was very impressed.
"It's a massive test, even off the white tees. This has been a great event. The qualifying venues are outstanding and everything about the final has been first class," said Fergal.
Michael Davern, CEO of the Straffan golf complex which staged the 2006 Ryder Cup, was on hand to welcome the golfers and guests for the 2015 conclusion to our event.
The Tipperary-born executive has overseen the latest phase of development at the K Club.
In the last few years over €20m has been invested in upgrading the resort, including a new 70-bedroom extension which brings the number of rooms in the Hotel to 140.
Our après golf presentation banquet took place in the magnificent Palmer Room, and the night was enhanced by an admirable performance from Kathy Nugent."
Allianz CEO Brendan Murphy said:"I would like to thank Michael Davern and the staff at The K Club for the excellence of the service and facilities made available to us today.
"To the captains, lady captains and honorary officers, you deserve great credit for your service to your clubs and to the overall good of Irish golf."