Alice O’Donovan’s recipe for living until 100 includes fresh air and frequent rounds of golf followed by a beer.
Mrs O'Donovan celebrated her 100th birthday yesterday at the Grange Golf Club in Dublin, where she played countless rounds of golf since joining the club in 1941.
She played on the Grange team and won competitions in 1955 and 1963. She was lady captain in 1972 and wore her captain’s pin to the birthday party. She played at the club twice a week until seven years ago. Her last round of golf was at a mother and daughter competition, with her daughter Mary Kelly. “There was great golf here. I used to play nearly every day,” she said. Now she is a lifelong honorary member.
She met her late husband, Tim, while golfing there in the 1940s. He was the only other person on the course, so she asked him to mark her scorecard. “And that was the beginning of it all,” said her daughter, Eilís Tormey.
Her six children, many of her 13 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren were at the club to celebrate.
Mrs O'Donovan said that, before meeting her husband, she used to tie up her dress so she could cycle to dances at the Gresham Hotel. "There were no cars." She and Tim married in August 1944 and went to Bundoran on honeymoon.
“She was a post-war bride, so she never had the full white dress or veils. She just had a really nice two-piece suit,” said granddaughter Dee McMeeking.
“She became a bit over-ambitious in the sea on honeymoon and had to be rescued. She swam out too far, but she was rescued and everything turned out well,” said her son, Denis.
Her children recalled daily swimming on their summer holidays in Courtown, Co Wexford. “She used to bring us all down to the beach to make sure we had our daily swim, and she led the way,” said Mary.
Mrs O’Donovan is also a lifelong bridge player.
Mary said her mother has always had exercise and fresh air from golf and mental exercise from bridge. “And that’s what has her so well and alert.”
“She’ll talk about people in the same care home as her and say: ‘Oh, her? She’s only young. She’s only in her 90s.’ So she’s got this different view of age. She has never really seen herself as old,” said Dee. “She’s just got such a passion for life. She’s never been a complainer.”
Mrs O'Donovan brought the letter she received from President Michael D Higgins as part of her centenarian bounty. Dee said she had been looking forward to the award for months.
“There’s been great excitement and a great build-up to it. And it’s come from her. So she’s very aware of what’s going on around her, which has been fantastic,” said Dee.
Mrs O’Donovan’s health is relatively good, but her short-term memory is impaired. She lives at the Marlay Nursing Home, where there was a rush on the roster for her birthday.
“Everybody wanted to be on duty for her birthday. She’s very popular,” said Denis.
“If you go visit her during a bingo session, she’ll ask you to please come back some other time. I’m busy,” he said.