Divine golf in the Golden Vale
Ballykisteen's South of Ireland Mixed Foursomes remembers Fr Basil Forde, writes Brian Keogh
The Golden Vale might boast some of the best farmland in the country, but it is also rich in historic sites and great golfing stories too.
Tipperary has given the game the likes of multiple championship winner and Walker Cup player Arthur Pierse, who now lives in Ballykisteen House, overlooking the golf course designed by Des Smyth and Declan Branigan.
The beautiful parkland test, which is situated just 400 yards from Limerick Junction station and just across the road from Tipperary racecourse, is now part of the Great National Hotels Ballykisteen Golf Hotel and Golf Resort.
Pierse played a major role in creating what has been a much-loved amenity for the locality since it opened for play 25 years ago.
But it's also just 30 minutes drive from the Benedictine monastery and boarding school, Glenstal Abbey and the golf club will remember with fondness the late Fr Basil Forde when it stages the 23rd edition of the South of Ireland Open Mixed Foursomes on Sunday, September 15.
The popular event was the brainchild of Fr Forde who passed away in January 2018. And his story, and love for golf and Ballykisteen is much cherished by the ladies club, which is keen to have another bumper entry for this year's event.
Fr Basil - born Garrett James Davitt Forde - found his vocation late in life following the death of his wife Fran (Madeleine Frances Lee) in 1986.
He began exploring the possibility of a monastic vocation shortly afterwards and entered the novitiate at Glenstal Abbey in November 1987 and was given the name Basil.
He made profession a year later and, following theological studies at the Milltown Institute in Dublin, was ordained a priest in April 1994 at the age of 60.
Fr Basil fulfilled various roles in the monastery, including teaching Business in the school and running horseracing and golf outings for the boys.
When the ladies club at Ballykisteen was looking for ideas for a fundraiser, it was Fr Basil who suggested starting the South of Ireland Open Mixed Foursomes.
"He put up a perpetual trophy," explained Esther Fearnley from the ladies' club at Ballykisteen. "He was a very keen golfer, and his life story would make a great book.
"The South of Ireland Open Mixed Foursomes is a very popular event and while we are limited to 64 pairs, we still have some room on the timesheet for September 15 and we'd love to welcome all visitors to Ballykisteen, which is a beautiful course and so playable all year round, no matter the weather
"Last week when we had horrendous rain, we still played the ball down the following day."
The ladies club is small but hugely active with some 130 members and many casual golfers from around Tipperary town.
"I was in Dromoland Castle and loved it, but when I retired, I found Ballykisteen was so much nearer home, and I am so happy I joined," Esther explained. "The setting is so beautiful, so we are really looking forward to this year's South of Ireland Mixed.
"The trophy is a lovely silver cup we engrave every year, and we remember Fr Basil fondly."
According to Glenstal Abbey, Fr Forde worked in several companies, including a short spell operating his own chemical packaging and auctioneering business.
Father of Caroline, Gerald, Garrett and Ciarán, he spent 16 years as an accountant and later as a director of Kinsealy Farms in north County Dublin, which later became part of Fyffes, the international fruit distribution company.
Active in various professional and religious organisations, he was also an avid golfer, bridge player and horse racing follower, three passions that he was to maintain throughout his entire monastic life.
"He was invaluable to the school," Esther explained. "And he got the boys involved in golf at Ballykisteen and would run parent and child competitions at the club."
The course remains a gem in the Golden Vale and boasts a great PGA professional in Marian Riordan.
"It really is a great golf course," Marian said of the former PGA Europro Tour venue.
"Once people discover where we are, they come back again and again because you can park the car and stay here for a few days golf with a lovely hotel on site.
"It's just ideal for a short golf break.
"The course measures 6,703 yards from the championship tees, so it really is a very good test, and with the investment that has been made in the course in recent years, it's in great condition."
The South of Ireland Mixed Foursomes (Fr Basil Forde Perpetual Trophy) takes place on Sunday, September 15 - an 18 hole strokeplay (half combined handicap to max 18).
If you sign in by 11.15am and enjoy complimentary tea/coffee and scones on arrival, followed by a shotgun start at 12 noon. The entry fee is €50 per pair (swipe cards required).
Entry with payment can be made up to Friday, September 13 by contacting Marian Riordan at Great National Ballykisteen Golf Hotel on 062 32117.
Green fees: Midweek €25 Weekend €30
Society Rates: Midweek €20; Weekend €25 for groups of 12 plus. Free fourball for groups of 20 +.
Buggy Hire: €25
Trolley Hire: Electric (with GPS) €25. Pull Trolley €3
Club Hire: €25 per 18 holes
Range Balls: €2 per 20 balls
Signature hole: 18th Par 5 537 yards from medal tees
A challenging par-five with water left and right, played to an elevated green surrounded by bunkers
Pro Tip: Approach shot to green should be precise. Accuracy off the tee is key.
Membership Rates: (Excluding levies) Full Male €767; Full Female €741; Senior €547; Distance €350
Other Info: Hotel on site. Limerick Junction within walking distance .
Nearby Clubs: Adare Manor, Ballyneety, Cahir Park, Castletroy, Tipperary, Charleville, Dundrum, Limerick, Mitchelstown, Newcastle West, Rathbane, Thurles.