For most golfers in Cork, Jerry Keohane is the driving force behind Lee Valley. But Jerry says he owes a lot to the original course designer. “There was one man who inspired me to and I learned a huge amount from him in two and a half years. He was the most amazing man I ever met, Christy O’Connor Jnr.” In a time before google maps or 3D modelling, Christy was a traditionalist, walking the land to judge the layout as Jerry explained: “He just had a simple drawing, a layout of the course and nothing else. He walked each fairway when he came down every week, sometimes twice a week. I’d be watching him and you’d ask yourself what’s he’s doing. He had some paint and he’d go around and mark out the greens and the bunkers and I was amazed by the man. He had no drawings or detailed plans, his imagination was just amazing. And if you look out on the course now it’s a credit to him. If you went back the road a half a mile in 1990 and looked up at the side of this hill, you had two hills on each side of the road. You’d ask yourself how could you build a golf course there. He was just amazing and I learned a lot from him.”
Those learnings would be put to good use when Jerry and his family purchased Lee Valley in 1999 after some time away from the development. Jerry was of the view that the course had deteriorated and he set about fixing it. “When I started again in 1999 I bought a mini digger, I started on the first tee box and reshaped it and put in sleepers, and I worked my wat around the course from there” explained Jerry. “We put in over 18,000 trees and I take a lot of pride in what I did.” The new 16th tee box is an example of the work that has been undertaken and it’s the fifth major tee box renovation that has taken place in the last few years. Anyone that is a regular in Lee Valley will no doubt have seen Jerry on a machine working on the course. From cutting to shaping, or simply filling divots each evening, Jerry remains a driving force behind the course and continues his plan for improvements all over the course.