Friday, January 2, 2015

An Irish Golfing Year in Review

Approach to Cork GC's 2nd hole.
Here are a few of the key ingredients that made up the Irish Golfing Year, 2014:

Star of the Year: Rory McIlroy
Rory got a huge amount of bad press over the Wozniacki affair and then the Horizon court case. Yet, considering those burdens and the new (ish) golf clubs he put on a spurt of golfing brilliance that saw him collect back-to-back Majors. But perhaps the classiest moment of all was after the Australian Open, when he and the field were thrashed by Jordan Spieth. His 63 on the final day drew the following (Twitter) praise from McIlroy:

You could give me another 100 rounds today at The Australian and I wouldn't sniff 63.... Well done @JordanSpieth very impressive!

That’s the sort of attitude that gives golf a good name.

Clearly, Rory would be most people’s pick, but a special mention for Stephanie Meadow and her amazing 3rd place performance at the 2014 Women’s US Open. It was her professional debut.

Tool of the Year: Greg Chalmers
At the same Australian Open… the Australian professional Greg Chalmers highlighted everything that’s wrong with the professional game when it comes to player/spectator safety. Take a look and see if you agree

That’s the sort of attitude that gives golf a bad name.

Farce of the Year: Ted Bishop/Ian Poulter 
The whole Ted Bishop/Ian Poulter fiasco was just daft.  Sexism has no place in golf, or in any walk of life, but for the PGA of America President to resign over calling Ian Poulter a ‘Lil Girl’ on Twitter just takes ‘Political Correctness’ to the extremes. Clearly it was time for Bishop to go and this was the last straw.

Yes, the two categories above are hardly 'Irish', but as the sport tries to attract more people to the game (kids and women especially) it is moments like these that prove we can take one step forward, quickly followed by two steps back.

Irish Amateur of the Year: Paul Dunne
A little subjective, given that Paul is a member of my home club, but the University of Alabama student qualified for the Open Championship at Hoylake and delivered an impressive performance… especially as he was on the tougher side of the draw (weather-wise). He missed the cut by two, but delivered a four under back nine on the Friday to show exactly what he is capable of.

Same Old Story: Padraig Harrington
Yes, Padraig Harrington did win… and Ireland rejoiced… but he continues to frustrate us all by belting out the same old mantra that he is almost there, that his game is almost back to where he wants it to be. One win in Indonesia, against a limited field, is a step in the right direction… but making the leap to winning a Major is massive. Every year I hope Padraig proves me wrong… maybe 2015 will be that year.  We’d all love to see him winning something big.

Disaster of the Year: February Storms
The February storms were a disaster bigger than anything to hit Irish golf in the past 50 years… probably ever. Coastal erosion saw Mulranny decimated, Co Sligo losing metres of its shoreline, Doonbeg’s iconic 14th being badly damaged and Lahinch being swamped.

The 15th hole at Limerick GC. The top photo is from 2008 -  the bottom
one is summer 2014. The trees around the green have been wiped out.
But the worst of it was the winds that tore several courses to shreds. During late summer I visited Fermoy, Charleville and Limerick, which, between them, lost well over 1,000 trees in February. Fermoy and Charleville have shrugged off the losses, with both courses appearing airier but no less structured – Fermoy has actually been enhanced – but Limerick suffered badly with many holes on the opening nine now a mere shadow of their former selves. Elsewhere, Kilkenny, Gowran Park, Dundrum House and Thurles were also badly hit, with dozens of others suffering to some degree.

Courses have recovered but it has been a costly and time-consuming disaster that will affect a lot of our courses for years to come.

Irish Golf Course of the Year: Cork Golf Club
It is difficult to place one club above another when so many courses have made changes, but I saw the upgraded Cork Golf Club, in May, and was mightily impressed. Unsurprisingly, not everybody likes the new bunkering but it makes an enormous difference to the appeal of the holes, bringing shape to fairways and adding tremendous perspective to the green complexes. As an acclaimed Alister MacKenzie design, getting the new bunkering right was critical to the course’s reputation. I played it with an English golf writer who is a MacKenzie aficionado and he described the bunkers as ‘mini-MacKenzies’.

Approach to Cork's 5th green from the left hand side.

Irish Golf Course Selection of the Year: Royal Portrush
Yes, we knew it was coming, but Royal Portrush getting the official nod to host the Open Championship was a huge boost for Irish golf. It has been a long wait, since 1951, and 2019 - the anticipated year - can't come soon enough.

Admiring the views at Royal Portrush
Tourism Initiative of the Year: Wild Atlantic Way
Given its 2,500 km length along Ireland's western seaboard, this new tourism route has a rich vein of golf. From Ballyliffin to the north, to Old Head of Kinsale to the south, there are some 38 golf courses along the route - many of them ranked among the best in the world.

Old Head of Kinsale's 18th hole
Resurrection of the Year: Ballyneety Golf Club
Ballyneety… and no other club comes close. From a course that closed in 2010 and was left to Mother Nature for two years, Ballyneety has delivered a remarkable turnaround.  It won the 2014 GUI Munster Golf Club of the Year, and is it any wonder? Congratulations to all involved in getting a sparkling parkland back on its feet.

Here's Ballyneety's 1st hole... before and after.
You can read more about the club’s changes here

Sale of the Year: Doonbeg
In what proved to be a very busy year, Adare, Mount Juliet, Mount Wolseley, Lough Erne, Dundrum House, New Forest, Moyvalley, Rathsallagh exchanged hands. Not all had been in the grip of NAMA.

The highest profile sale of all was Doonbeg which fell under Donald Trump’s umbrella, for an estimated €15 million. As such, it had to be renamed with the catchy title of Trump International Golf Links Ireland. It also appears that the €15 million fee required Trump to be greeted at the airport by a red carpet, a violinist, harpist and a singer… oh, and a Minister from the Government.

And a final non-Irish moment:

Rip Off of the Year: Ryder Cup
Ryder Cup merchandise. £80 sterling for a beanie bearing the Ryder Cup logo is an utter joke… people should be ashamed of themselves.

No comments:

Post a Comment