Edmondstown Golf Club the victors on Langer’s course
Allianz Irish Times Officers’ Challenge regional qualifier takes place in Portmarnock
Winners Edmonstown Golf Club: Peter Kilcullen, Chief Customer Officer director Allianz, captain Tim O’Connor, lady captain Aoife Cousins, Gerry Hiney and Irish Times sports editor Malachy Logan. Photograph: Aidan Crawley
The fescue grasses danced, which is always a good sign at Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links on a spring day. And, for sure, the stiff wind that whipped in off the Irish Sea only served to add to the test in the Allianz Irish Times Officers’ Challenge regional qualifier on the wonderful Bernhard Langer-designed course which has matured into one of the finest in the country.
What was it Langer himself once observed? “Golf is not life or death, it’s a game; and at the end of the game, there’s always going to be a winner and a loser.”
In fairness to the German, he has demonstrated an impressive longevity in fashioning golfing success around the globe. Except, on this occasion, it felt as if everyone was a winner here in getting an opportunity to test every facet of the game: that Edmondstown Golf Club emerged as the victors was the icing on the cake for the team of lady captain Aoife Cousins, honorary secretary Gerry Hiney and captain Tim O’Connor who produced a score of 70 points on a difficult day for scoring.
Although the trio have served their club well in their various officer roles down the years, it is an indication of the uniqueness of this three-person team competition (with two scores to count) that it was actually the first time the Edmondstown three had played an event together. But they dove-tailed beautifully, which is often the key component in mapping out a successful strategy.
“We had a game plan, which was basically to play to par as much as we could,” admitted Hiney, a 13-handicapper. With Cousins (11) and O’Connor (20) contributing well in what evolved into a fine team performance, Edmondstown led the way in booking their place in the national final which will take place at The K Club in August.
The demands of Portmarnock Links were, as O’Connor pointed out, somewhat different to their own tree-lined parkland course in the foothills of the Dublin mountains.
And just as they had planned, Edmondstown kept nett par as their friend for much of the journey around the links with their score of 70 edging out Foxrock Golf Club by two points, with Rathfarnham Golf Club finishing third on 66 points and Co Louth Golf Club fending off Clontarf Golf Club on countback after both finished on 64 points. All four qualifying clubs have now booked their invites to Straffan.
The Foxrock team of Stuart Margetson (13), Carol Dillon (21) and Derek Scally (15) got off to a flying start. Having started on the eighth, Dillon hit a rescue to the Par 3 ninth – their second hole of the day – which finished 12 feet from the flag. Dillon followed up by rolling in the birdie putt. “I left it to the lads after that,” she quipped.
And the team was later helped by the addition of another birdie, this time from Scally after a 5-wood approach to 30ft on the first. “The conditions were tough, it always felt as if the wind was against you,” said Scally.
The Rathfarnham team of Declan Sweeney (6), Jane Jones (13) and Beulah Sargent (26) combined well, with the highlight being a birdie on the 17th, one of the toughest Par 3s around. There, Sweeney’s 3-wood was propelled into the wind to 10 feet and there was great satisfaction in finishing the job by rolling in the birdie putt.
The Co Louth team of Harry Collier (12), Jackie Quinn (8) and David Hepburn (8) required the assistance of a back nine countback to edge out Clontarf, whose cause wasn’t helped by all three members blanking the Par 4 14th hole.
Peter Kilcullen, the Chief Customer Officer for Allianz, greeted the competing officers and teams to what is the 22nd year of the company’s involvement in the competition and welcomed The Irish Times, involved for the first time, on board as co-sponsors. Kilcullen commended Moira Cassidy, the director of golf and her team at Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links, for the excellent conditioning of the links.
The remaining regional qualifiers will take place at Cork Golf Club (May), Malone Golf Club (June), Mount Juliet (July) and Galway Bay (August) with the national final to be played at The K Club on August 28th.
Results (Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links qualifiers):
70 points – Edmondstown (Tim O’Connor, Aoife Cousins, Gerry Hiney)
68 points – Foxrock (Stuart Margetson, Carol Dillon, Derek Scally)
66 points – Rathfarnham (Derek Sweeney, Beulah Sargent, Jane Jones)
64 points (on countback) – Co Louth (Harry Collier, Jackie Quinn, David Hepburn)