Six Cork golfers will start in tomorrow morning’s first round of the East of Ireland. Munster Strokeplay winner Cathal Butler and Kinsale teammate Gary Ward are in action, as are Mallow duo Paul McCarthy and James Sugrue. Mark Shanahan (Castlemartyr) and John Hickey (Cork) are also playing.
Introduced by Co Louth Golf Club in 1941, the first East of Ireland was won by Joe B Carr, who would go on to be the most successful competitor in the event’s history, clocking up 12 wins at the Baltray links, notably a hat-trick of wins from 1956-1958. County Louth Golf Club or “Baltray” as it is more affectionately known is situated 4 miles from the historic town of Drogheda at the mouth of the river Boyne. With the river to the south and the Irish Sea to the east, this is Links golf at is very best, with only the muted murmur of a ships engine to break the sounds of nature, as it quietly wends its way up river to the port. The late Frank Penninck wrote in an article in 1962 in the “Golfers Companion” referring to the Course as “natural unspoilt seaside territory with towering sand hills, murderous rough, and a rating of long holes that call for powerful hitting”. In more recent times the “Golf World” magazine was moved to observe: “County Louth is one of the best kept secrets of Irish golf. Sometimes also referred to as Baltray this has to be one of the most enjoyable Links in Ireland and undoubtedly represents superb value. There is not a weak hole on the course and some of the holes merit greatness”. The present course was designed in 1938 by the renowned Tom Simpson. The course is laid out in two loops covering some 190 acres with no two holes running in the same direction. The only exception being the 12th and 13th which run along the sea. It speaks highly for Simpson’s design that he saw need to introduce only fifty bunkers in the course’s defences the rest was taken care of by the natural terrain. The 14th hole is regarded as the signature hole a short par four measuring only 332 yards you can drive all the way to the green and end up taking six or more, wondering what did you actually do that was wrong. The four par threes are superb. Averaging 160 yards it is seldom one will have a good score that does not include a par at each of these. In 1985 the numerical order in which the holes were laid out was slightly altered to accommodate a new starting position. Other than that little has changed from 1938, until 2003 when the firm of Donald Steel and Company undertook a course upgrade under the guidance of Tom MacKenzie, himself an undoubted fan of Simpson’s work. The changes although minimal have had a significant impact on the course and with the addition of some new Tees “Baltray” now measures over 7,000 yds thus bringing it in line with the modern game.