Monkstown will host the prestigious Munster Youths Open this week and this is another event in a line of high profile events held at the club in recent years. In 2014 they hosted the ILGU National finals over five days and in 2008 they hosted the week long GUI Cups & Shields finals.
Monkstown Captain Carl Toal is really looking forward to the event, especially considering the long run of poor weather endured by golfers locally. “It was a difficult few months where the bad weather was relentless really said the Captain, “and like many courses in the area, we welcome the recent improvement and stretch in the evenings. We are only back to playing 18 holes in the last two or three weeks. The course has stood up well considering the conditions we experienced and a lot of credit for that is due to our course superintendent Martin Travers and his team for their professional expertise. It will provide a good stern test off the back tees for all those participating in the Munster Youths. It’s a quality field and the standard of golf I know will be exceptional.”
Having developed a new clubhouse in 2006, Monkstown went through a few tough years as golf membership nationwide contracted from 2008 to 2014. The club committees have made several changes to their membership structures in that time, and now they are positioned to thrive again as growth in the game is predicted. The juvenile section and the inter-club competitions are two areas where the club has focused on as Carl explained: “We have a very strong and vibrant juvenile section and it will be a great few days for them, many of the juniors will be ball spotters and helping out, to see some great golf being played on their own course. Locally our hopes sit comfortably with young Nick Moore who has been practicing hard in preparation for this event. Sean Desmond our only scratch handicap eligible is unfortunate that the Munster youths is clashing with him being on duty in Wales representing Ireland in a two day international friendly at Cardigan GC. Having said that, we here in Monkstown are very proud of his achievements to date and wish him well in his debut. He’ll play in plenty of Munster Youths in the future, it’s just a pity he misses this one being in his home course.”
Monkstown reached two Munster finals in the GUI Cups and Shields last year and according to the Captain, this is another area where the club has seen an improvement; “Monkstown, l feel are back on the golfing map in recent times, not just for hosting events like the Munster youths but for competing at all levels. We have no interest in turning up to fulfil fixtures or make up the numbers. The commitment from team managers and players for the national events has been immense and along with the fabulous work being done by our juvenile committee the future augers well. Membership numbers and membership retention have been testing at times but we have now seen it improving and stabilising positively in the last few years, so much so we only have a few places left for 2016. We are also hosting Barton Shield later in the year and very excited about that too.”
Carl thinks that the Munster Youths will be a popular event among Monkstown members: “I would expect a lot of our older members to be out on the course to watch the event and help where required, and to maybe pick up a few tips on course management from the top players. Last year’s winner Paul Murphy is overage but a former winner James Sugrue also from Mallow will be in the field. Our club professional here in Monkstown, Cian McNamara is also a former winner back in 2004.”
Monkstown’s Club Professional Cian McNamara has his name on the trophy, he won in Clonmel in 2004 when playing with Limerick GC. Next week will no doubt bring back memories for McNamara as he watches the 90 young golfers descend on his new home club. “The Munster Youths was my first win in what I call a “senior” event,” said the Limerick native, “so it felt like a real step up in level. If I’m correct I won Youths and Senior title that same year.” McNamara was one of very few golfers to win a Youths provincial title and a senior provincial title in the same year. “I was up against Clancy Bowe from Tramore in the Youths in Clonmel that year. He was the big name around that period, I would say it was a big win for me as I was used to competing in boys events and having success. Then I won a Youths event which felt like a step up in level.” Now a PGA Professional, Cian is still competitive on the course, winning several PGA Irish Region and Munster PGA events in the past two years. Play in Monkstown gets underway on Wednesday when 90 golfers will play two rounds over Wednesday and Thursday. The top 45 golfers will play the third and final round on Friday.