Golfing Union of Ireland delegates to the AGM held last Friday in Carton House heard some good news and some bad news on the financial front. First, the positive: the Union had an operating surplus of over €350,000 on their 2009-2010 operations to October 31, 2010.
The bad news? The number of GUI members had fallen over that same period by around 8,000, and a number of key sponsors have opted out. Chief among them is Bulmers, who for 19 years, sponsored the All-Ireland Cups and Shields finals, an annual festival which was the pinnacle of golf for GUI members through the full range of handicaps.
Each year around 20,000 club golfers set out in the five top inter-club events -- the Irish Senior Cup, the Barton Shield, the Irish Junior Cup, the Jimmy Bruen Shield, and the Pierce Purcell Shield.
Once the provincial finals are played, all eyes turn to the prospect of the finals week, which last year was held in Castlebar. The memories of those who compete in the finals last a lifetime, and it is hoped that ongoing discussions with a potential sponsor will be successful.
Speaking about the decision Eugene Fayne, President of the GUI said "On behalf of all of the members, officials and supporters of teams that have competed in Cups and Shields events over the past two decades, I would like to express a sincere 'thank you' to Bulmers for their support. Obviously we are sad to have such a fruitful relationship come to an end, but the time has come for Bulmers to move on."
Other sponsors who are not continuing their backing are AIB (Irish Amateur Open Championship) and 3Mobile (Mixed Foursomes), while the Algarve Tourist Board vacated the Seniors Open.
In total, the loss of those sponsor-ships, plus a 5pc cut in the Irish Sports Council grant represents a decrease of around €90,000 in 2011 income if none of the sponsorships are replaced.
GUI Treasurer Rollo McClure felt that the operating surplus for the year was satisfactory, given the financial environment. Central to coping with decreases in income over the last two years was a €2 increase in the annual subscription, which took effect in 2009.
"That helped mitigate the loss of income from the drop in members ," said McClure.
"The Sports Council have always been very good to us, and we can live with the reduction in income from this source.
"Overall, I'm confident about the future of the Union, but it's much more difficult for the clubs than the Union. I really do feel for some of the clubs, because I know they are suffering, both member and proprietary clubs.
"Unfortunately, in some ways, we can only sit on the sidelines and watch what's happening with these clubs. There's not an awful lot we can do. We can't offer them money. All we can do is offer advice, which we've tried to do through the year in our material about retaining membership," he said.
On the playing front, the major change is the passing of a motion from the Ulster Council that distance measuring devices will be permitted in all GUI events, including championships and inter-club competitions.
Be warned, however, only devices that measure distance are permitted. Anything which measures slope, wind speed or temperature won't be allowed, and will result in disqualification.
Clubs can already permit distance measuring devices to be used in their competitions if they adopt a Local Rule.
Union officers for 2011 are: Pres-ident, Eugene Fayne; President-Elect, Fintan Buckley; Hon Sec, Albert Lee; Hon Treas, RR McClure.
Heraty 'delighted' with ILGU grant
SINEAD Heraty, chief executive of the ILGU has welcomed the €204,316 received by the Union as part of the Irish Sports Council's National Governing Body Grants.
"We are delighted with this year's funding allocation, particularly in these economic times, which will help us mould the successful youth system we have in place," she said.
"The ILGU is entering into a very bright and exciting period and this would not be possible without the funding we are receiving."
There are three parts to the ILGU's grant aid from the Council: €118,000 high performance grant, an administration grant of €46,316, and the women in sport allocation of €40,000.
Gleeson victorious in Hilary outing
ALEX Gleeson, a one handicap member of the Castle produced a winning 71 nett to win the second RaboDirect Hilary Golf Society outing at Portmarnock Links.
The runner-up was Fergal O'Connell (6) from Forest Little with a nett 72, while third was Jim Toal (6) from St Anne's with nett 73 (on back nine).
Best gross of the day was Eoin Arthurs (+2) of Forest Little with a 72, despite a double bogey on the 17th hole.
Greenore's Robert Giles took the professional's prize, while the team section was won by Giles, Clem Walshe (Dundalk) and Joe Hutton (Corrstown) with 64.
The next outing is on March 6 in Seapoint. Timesheet at email@example.com
McGrane lines out for Smyth's big day
EUROPEAN Tour player Damien McGrane will take part in Des Smyth's President's Prize in the Links Golf Society outing at Royal Dublin tomorrow.
Challenge Tour member Niall Kearney and former Ryder Cup players Philip Walton and Eamonn Darcy are also in the field, as is Gary Murphy.