Monday 21 October 2019

Gar Golden would have been proud

Westport land emotional home win in tribute to former GUI President and 'Mr Westport' who sadly passed away during the week

This one’s for you, Gar: Westport club legend, Gar Golden
This one’s for you, Gar: Westport club legend, Gar Golden

Brian Keogh

Westport captured the AIG Junior Cup on home soil on Sunday and there was one notable absentee from proceedings who would have been at the heart of the celebrations.

Gerard (Gar) Golden was not just a former President of the Golfing Union of Ireland, he was Mr Westport, and his sad passing last Friday, little more than three months after the death of his wife Agatha, was keenly felt at the course he helped create.

Captain of Westport in 1975, President from 1990 to1992 and President of the Golfing Union of Ireland in 1990, he was chairman of the Connacht branch from 1985 to 1988 and a major figure in Connacht golf for more than 50 years.

A single-figure golfer for most of his life, he enjoyed a distinguished career in the game, shooting 62 at Castlebar in 1963 to win the Boyden Cup for Westport and playing his part in the club's Junior Cup success at Lahinch in 1980.

Padraig McLoughlin's centenary history of Westport Golf Club pointed to his contribution to that team as an example of his selflessness.

He wrote: "His contribution as selector and playing member to that team was vital and it is to his credit that he did not hesitate to cry off the final team after he lost his match in the semi-final."

As an administrator, he played a central role in securing the current Carrowholly site for Westport Golf Club, which opened in 1975 with Harry Bradshaw and Fred Daly playing an exhibition match.

Championship golf soon followed - the Irish Close in 1977 and 1985, quickly followed by the Cups and Shields Finals in 1990, the 2002 Irish PGA and the "Close" again in 2005, when Rory McIlroy won for the first time.

"It would be impossible to quantify the man hours given so generously by Gar Golden to the development of golf in Westport," McLoughlin wrote.

A minute's silence was held as a mark of respect for his memory at noon on Saturday, when Westport beat Malone in the semi-finals and went on to face Dun Laoghaire, who were 3.5-1.5 winners over Tramore, in Sunday's final.

The Mayo men had lost three finals since 2006 but they were not to be denied.

Ronan Hehir beat Brian Begley and Ronan Mahon saw off Patrick McCann to make it 2-0 to the hosts but the third point proved elusive until Anto Browne two-putted the 19th from just off the green to beat Jamie Campbell with a priceless par-four.

"It's brilliant," said Browne who won the decisive point just seconds before Fergus Rothwell made a 25 footer for birdie on the 18th to close out a two-hole win over Kevin Giblin with a birdie. "We've been trying to win this for 10 or 15 years now."

Team captain, Tony Bree did not forget his late clubmate at the finish.

"We have all played with Gar a lot down the years," he said. "I remember back in 2002 in Galway when we were beaten in the Connacht final by Portumna, Gar played in that team, and he was still a fantastic player at that age.

"He was a great clubman, and he was great for the GUI. He was known in golf clubs everywhere, and he will be fondly remembered in golfing circles all over the country.

"Hopefully, he was looking down on us, and he got us over the line."

He would have been proud of a brilliant AIG Cups and Shields Finals as one of his Mayo friends recalled this week.

"He did so much for golf in Westport since it opened in 1975," said former Castlebar Golf Club captain, Mick Byrne. "He did so much for golf in Connacht and Ireland.

"He had a beautiful presence about him, he was great company and was liked by everybody.

"Believe me when I say it, there was no nicer man that Gar Golden. He was a knowledgeable man who loved sport and the people that played it. He was special."

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