Waterville maestros tame beast of Adare
ADARE MANOR Hotel & Golf Resort features a beguiling combination of history, elegance and pastoral beauty which is an appropriate setting for the number one parkland golf course in the country.
That was the reason it was chosen to host our 2013 southern region qualifying round of the Irish Independent/Allianz Officers Golf Challenge, and it matched all expectations in fine style.
The course that has hosted the Irish Open twice, with Padraig Harrington's memorable 2007 victory the highlight, offered a nice challenge for the participants.
And off-course, the facilities and the fine fare on offer for the post-golf dinner were top class.
All that remained for the captains, lady captains and club representatives to do was (a) enjoy themselves, and (b) do justice to the surroundings by the quality of their golf.
It wasn't easy. Conditions were reasonable, with a mild breeze and the occasional shower of light rain, but good course management and a feel for the pace of the greens was required.
The top two teams were Waterville and Charleville, who each returned 80 points on the two-to-score stableford basis. The Kerry club took home the winners' pennant on a countback, and captain Dave Farrell, a native of Dundalk, was jubilant, as were his team-mates, lady captain Jane Bracken and Michael Donnelly.
Said Dave: "Captains, lady captains, sponsors, guests – wow! We're delighted to have won this, very surprised and quite shocked.
"Coming down here from a links course, we didn't think we'd do it. To the sponsors, Allianz and the Irish Independent, thank you guys, it's a brilliant day out.
"I'd also like to thank Adare Manor for providing an excellent course and facilities."
Charleville's representatives were captain Brendan Buckley, lady captain Margaret Deady and Peter Butler, and the Cork team also gave a good account of themselves.
They were all just about recovered from the staging of Brendan's captain's prize two days beforehand, and managed to dovetail well throughout the round.
Lady captain Margaret's first memory of Adare Manor was in the 2005 JP McManus Charity Pro-Am.
At the time Margaret was a golf rookie but was delighted to support her husband Danny, who got to play in the Pro-Am on Padraig Harrington's team.
"We had a great time. All the professionals were lovely – great guys, Padraig went out of his way to make sure we got a family photograph with him," said Margaret.
Third place qualifiers were 'interlopers' from Leinster – the Birr team of captain John Irwin, lady captain Susan Reidy and Richard Johnston – they scored 75 points.
This was the first time captain John had played Adare Manor, and he enjoyed it.
John had also attended the JP McManus event as a spectator but was pleased to finally get the chance of playing 18 holes over the layout which had been graced by so many world stars.
Birr surpassed even their own expectations by their performance on the par-three 148-yard 16th hole, which is beautifully protected by water.
"The biggest thrill we had today was when all three of us birdied the 16th.
"Dick played first and he hit the ball to inside two feet. I was just over the back and chipped in for two, and Sue sank a putt from eight feet for her two.
"We were going to tell Dick to pick up when we realised he had a shot, so he tapped in for four points," said John.
Ballybunion's captain Michael Barry, lady captain Maria Shanahan and Sean Kennelly proved, as did Waterville, that links course golfers can perform on parkland as well as by the seaside.
Just prior to the Adare event, Ballybunion had hosted a very successful Irish Women's Close championship in which Paula Grant from Lisburn had defeated Slieve Russell's Lisa Maguire in the final, and Stephanie Meadow shot a superb 67 in the qualifying rounds.
Lady captain Maria noted that a special bit of Kingdom history was made when Tralee's Mary Sheehy became the first golfer from Kerry to win the Ita Wallace Plate.
In terms of their own game at Adare Manor, the Ballybunion trio felt they did well, but made scoring opportunities on the green which they didn't take.
"We'll hope to do better with the putting in the final at the K Club, but we're very happy to have got through," said captain Michael.
Sean McGrath from Allianz welcomed the participants on behalf of the joint sponsors and offered his congratulations to the captains and lady captains on their election to office for the year.
"We appreciate it is a difficult time to be in business and to be running golf clubs, with all the elements that must be dealt with such as finances and memberships.
"Today is all about you having a day out and we hope you enjoyed yourselves.
"Thanks to Adare Manor for having the course in absolutely fantastic condition.
"This is wonderful golf course and it's a credit to the course staff," he said.