There was a large gathering in Muskerry on Monday to celebrate the 29th anniversary of the founding of the South Munster Senior Golfers. Senior Golfers from almost every club in Cork joined the committee in acknowledging the work that was put in by Tadg O’Halloran in the past three decades. Although the course in Muskerry was closed, the clubhouse was full with well over 100 golfers from all over Munster joining Tadg in the celebration. In 1989, Tadg along with the late Michael Geary came up with the idea and they went on to launch the South Munster Seniors at a small event in Waterrock. On that day members from around four clubs attended but it was enough to start the ball rolling. It was a different time, one in which non club golf was essentially limited to societies. The initiative was a bit of a ump in the way that events were managed and the oganisers had a job to sell to concept to many clubs. The organisers persisted and bit by bit and club by club they convinced more and more managers and committees to hold seniors open days. The very modest green fee was offset by a large turnout and additional pro-shop and catering revenues. Initially the opens were favoured by proprietary courses, but when full timesheets became the norm the members clubs came on board. It was quickly spotted as an ideal way to maximise revenue on an otherwise quiet day. All of the events are held mid-week, allowing courses to continue to offer great value to senior golfers. There are only two requirements to play in the events, golfers must be over 60 and a GUI member. The organisation is pretty unique in that’s there’s not membership fee for golfers or indeed the host club. The entry fee for most events this year is just €12 and each competition has three categories, 0-15, 16-20, 20+. The majority of events are singles although there are some three man and four man team events. By being open to all handicap grades, the schedule is open to all senior golfers and not limited to those playing at a high level. For some it’s a very competitive affair but for the majority the events continue to allow them to meet and play social golf at a wide variety of courses.
While the South Munster Seniors is not a society, or directly tied to the GUI, it does operate a reciprocal system. In order to gain access to the timesheet for each event, a golfers own club must host an event. The events offer senior golfers an opportunity to play outside their own home course and it also provides a great opportunity to play with friends and other golfers who are not linked through club membership. The 2018 calendar sees between two and three events take place every week. Starting on the 4th of April in East Cork, there are three events that week with a further three taking place the following week. In April alone there are twelve events spread across five counties. The wide choice of dates and the geographic spread of courses means that every golfer has a wide choice of venues to play every month from April to October. This year the seniors open calendar will see 33 clubs in five counties host over seventy events which are spread over seven months. Representatives of each club are invited to a planning meeting each February where the schedule is agreed. Events will be held in Cork, Waterford, Tipperary, Limerick and Kerry, more than justifying the South Munster title the group now hold. The showpiece event each year is a trip to Killarney, this year there’s an event on at the end of April in addition to a a two day event at the beginning of October.
It’s a hard job to estimate the number of golfers that may have played in the South Munster Seniors Open days since 1989, it’s very probably in the tens of thousands. And while there are representatives from every club involved at this stage, it was down to Tadg and Michael to get the ball rolling almost 30 years ago.