Portmarnock Links triumph in qualifier for Allianz/Irish Times Officers’ Challenge
Club advances into final after carding 74 on home soil to see off Rathfarnham
Castle Golf Club club captain Joe O’Hare and president Eamonn Duggan watch lady captain Carina Staunton in action during the Allianz/Irish Times Golf Challenge. Photograph: Aidan Crawley
Winning a first pennant is a major moment in the history of any golf club and to do it on home soil makes it even more special.
For Portmarnock Links that day came in the first 2019 qualifier for the Allianz Irish Times Officers’ Challenge and, along with it, a place in the final which will take place at the K Club later this year.
The Bernhard Langer-designed links first opened for play back in 1995 and quickly became a highly-acclaimed favourite for lovers of links golf. And that’s saying something when it sits on the shores of Dublin Bay – a stretch of coastline which boasts some of the best links courses anywhere in the world.
The steady growth of the club has seen their membership double in recent years and now they have a pennant to go on show after the trio of lady captain Moira Cassidy, playing off a handicap of 11, men’s captain Ian Watson, off 13, and president Cecil Ryan, also off 11, combined for a score of 74 points on a blustery day on Dublin’s northside.
With rain and freezing temperatures forecast there was an air of trepidation as the teams took to the course for this opening 2019 qualifier but they need not have worried as the sun shone for most of the round with the hail and sleet perfectly timing its arrival just after play had finished.
Indeed the sun was really shining on the fifth hole for Donabate captain Joe Rice who got a phone call to say that his grand-daughter had just been born. Understandably the golf didn’t quite live up to standard after that. No team could have complained about the condition of the course, however. The work done by golf course superintendent Fintan Brennan and team gave the teams a real treat with most coming from soggy parkland courses over the winter to the firm turf and fast greens of the links.
For most clubs, the conditions proved quite tough with the wind sweeping across the links towards the Irish Sea, a wind which Portmarnock Links president Ryan described as “one that is never helping you”.
However, it didn’t pose too much difficulty for the home trio who felt it was “breezy but a pretty standard day” as they got off to an eventful start. First, lady captain Cassidy saw her ball bounce out of the stream which runs across the first hole, allowing her to get up and down for an opening par. Not bad for someone who was using a set of hired clubs and who hadn’t played since September.
But she was outdone by team-mate Watson on the first who sunk an 80ft birdie putt (described as being “closer to the second tee box than the first green”) to get the team off to a flying seven-point start.
There would be one more seven-pointer to follow at the Par 5 13th thanks to a par from Ryan and a birdie from Cassidy and those two big scores allowed for a few two-point blips along the way.
In the end the home team had two points to spare in their victory with Rathfarnham coming in second, represented by captain John Mills (9), lady captain Sandra Gray (17) and president John Guinan (13) who combined for 72 points but will perhaps look back disappointed on the 15th where they only managed a single point. In third were the Foxrock team of captain Gerry Halpenny (13), lady captain Helen Clifford (22) and president Liz Maher (19) who finished on 68 points.
Allianz has supported this unique club event for the past 27 years, and Peter Kilcullen, the chief customer officer with Allianz Ireland, paid tribute to the superb conditioning of the course, and wished all officers well in their year of office.
Allianz Irish Times Officers’ Challenge Qualifying results from Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links
1st 74 points – Portmarnock Links (Ian Watson, Cecil Ryan, Moira Cassidy)
2nd 72 points – Rathfarnham (John Mills, Sandra Gray, John Guinan)
3rd 68 points – Foxrock (Gerry Halpenny, Helen Clifford, Liz Maher)