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Nancy Long still swinging sweetly at 90

Still passionate about her game and seeking extra distance after 70 years of membership at Royal Tara


Dedication and devotion: Nancy Long plants an oak tree on the 18th at Royal Tara to mark her 90th birthday

Dedication and devotion: Nancy Long plants an oak tree on the 18th at Royal Tara to mark her 90th birthday

Dedication and devotion: Nancy Long plants an oak tree on the 18th at Royal Tara to mark her 90th birthday

I was told to call before midday because if I called later, she might be up at the club, practising her putting.

That’s dedication to the game and after turning 90 on 19 March, Nancy Long, who is still seeking a little extra distance off the tee, remains an active member of her beloved club Royal Tara, where she has been playing for the past 70 years.

She joined what was then called Bellinter Park in 1952 aged 20 when it was a nine-hole course and seen it expand, first to 15 holes, then to 18 before it became a 27-hole complex in 1991.

Originally from Stamullen in Co Meath, Nancy would drive to Royal Tara and drop her mother to her sister’s home near the club, then pick her up again on the way home.

At that time there would be about 14 ladies for a weekly competition and 20 on Lady Captain’s Day at a time when there were no online timesheets and the clubhouse was a modest, tin shed.

Nancy was given a handicap of 36 and won her first Captain’s Prize after two years, going on to win it twice more as well as capturing two President’s prizes and every other major title at the club, including Golfer of the Year several times.

She won the Granard Cup twice and the All Ireland Gold medal with her only regret that she didn’t win the Australian Spoons, though she did once beat Grange’s hockey playing duo Joan O’Reilly and Johnnie Lambert in the semi-finals in Woodbrook.

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Lady Captain in 1972 (a role she avoided for a long time) and Lady President in 1997, she has been an Honorary member for many years, getting her handicap down to six.

She still plays off a handicap of 27.9 at age 90 and remains a bright and lively woman with a great love of a game of poker.

Coached by Mick McGuirk at Baltray, where she paid £5 to be a country member, she knew Philomena Garvey and Clarrie Reddan but turned down the chance to play Senior Cup golf for Malahide, telling them that if Royal Tara didn’t have a Senior Cup team, she would not play for any other club.

She recalled after the war in the 1950’s there were a lot of priests from Dalgan Park in the club and recalls a Fr Blowick bringing blood up from the farm to fertilise the greens.

She is still looking for extra distance and remains the only woman in Royal Tara who uses the driver on the fairway.

Her present driver has a 12 degree loft but she says she needs a 9 1/2 to continue using it on the fairway. The buggy is her lifeline but she still loves to play a money match on the course and recoup any losses on the poker table.

“Perseverance,” she said when asked the key to her longevity. “I got down to six at one stage but played most of my golf off eight or nine. But I still play twice a week and I love going down to practice as I don’t live far away and can still drive down.

“I love to have a match when I play golf because matchplay is good for golf and I like to play for a little wager and play ‘oozlers and dykes’. And if I lose, there’s always a game of bluff afterwards.

While she no longer plays competitive golf during the winter, she continues to come to the club to practice her putting so she will be ready for summer and joins a group of retired lady members at the club for a regular Tuesday dinner, followed by poker.

“Golf is a wonderful thing for people mentally,” said Nancy, who lost her husband Michael in a motor accident 40 years ago. “So golf was a great help to me.”

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