Long Read: Liam Burns Celebrates 25 years in Youghal

Liam BurnsLiam Burns is a West Cork man by birth, but after 25 years in Youghal, he surely qualifies as an East Cork man.  Liam is celebrating 25 years as the Club Professional at Youghal Golf Club and after taking up the game in his mid teens, he turned it into a career.  It’s surprising to hear that Liam was a later comer to golf, but once he started he was bitten by the bug.  “I only started playing golf at age 16 with my good friend school teacher Paddy Kehoe” explained the Bandon native.  “Paddy thought me in Hamilton High School in Bandon and his son Mark was single handicap player at the time.  They encouraged me to play golf as my parents didn’t play.  Starting out I would play 36 holes a day sometimes.  Whenever I got a chance I was on the golf course the summers where very good back then plenty run on the ball.  During my leaving Cert year in 1987 my school teacher Mr Kehoe thought being an assistant professional at the club would be a good job for me, at time my handicap was down to 8 but I thought nothing of it until after my leaving Cert.  Also that year our school Hamilton High School golf team won Cork section, won Munster and lost in All lreland final to a very strong Armagh school.”

The move from golfer to pro happened quite quickly, given that Liam only took up the game when he was 16.  As with a generation of emerging PGA Professsionals, Bandon’s Paddy O’Boyle was central to the story.  Paddy in responsible for many of the current generation of Professionals with Stephen Hayes, David O’Sullivan and David Keating among the trainees who have carved out successful careers in the game.  “I starting working in Pro Shop in Bandon just after completing my Leaving Cert and handicap reduced to 5 by end of summer and after receiving leaving Cert results in middle August decided to continue with golf.   Started my PGA training with Paddy O’Boyle in 1988.  Working with Paddy was a pleasure, he allowed you to work on your own initiative and always had great advice on how you improve your selling, teaching, etc.  The great stories he had of Christy O’ Connor Snr and Christy Jnr were well documented, and I had the pleasure to meet both at many Pro Ams later on with Paddy.”

Liam was the right man in the right place at the right time when he qualified, a position was open in Youghal and Liam made the move East.  It was very opportune, when you look at newly qualified Pro’s now the chances of picking up a club pro role is very limited.  “I qualified in 1992 as a PGA Professional In 1993 and took up the position of Club Professional at Youghal Golf Club.  Golf was just on the up that period with growing membership and society golf etc. and this continued for next 15 years with huge growth in golf. Since 2009 membership numbers started to decline and have continued since.  In recent times have seen membership stabilise and starting to grow again with growth in Ladies and Juniors, but we need to grow more at the intermediate age (25-40).”  Now well into his third decade in East Cork, Liam is settled just outside the seaside town.  He’s married to Paula and the couple have two daughters Ava and Saoirse.  Liam has seen plenty of changes in the cyclical nature of the sport.  Recently Youghal has been hit by a drop in membership numbers – similar to almost every club in the country.

Faced with a challenging outlook, the committee took on the challenge and Club Captain Joe Kirk recently presented a number of proposals to the club at a general meeting.  All of the new proposals at the EGM were passed, that now gives the club a solid footing to rebuild and grow again from a stable financial base.  “This year Management committee under Captain Joe Kirk’s leadership undertook major revenue management action to safe guard our club” said Liam.  “We’ve introduced limited life memberships, sites for sale, a levy for members.  For first time and franchise bar and restaurant to provide better all-round services to members and visitors, and thus keeping Youghal Golf Club as a premier club in Cork.”  And Liam thinks that the important decisions will pay dividends for the club; “Watch the space, with all these proposals approved at recent EGM  it’s onwards and upwards for the club.”

With golf in Youghal tracing back to 1897, the town has a strong association with the sport.  Back in the early years of the sport the rail network had a big influence on the location of courses, and it’s not surprise that the first recorded course in the town was on the shore close to the train station.  Like many clubs, the course had more than one move on they way to their current home.  Now perched above the town with unrivalled views, the has a spectacular setting.  With easy access from the eastern side of Cork, the club is a great option for any newcomers looking to join a club.  Full membership is less than €700 and there’s an introductory offer available for less than €500.  Junior memberships are available for €65 which is great value considering the access it provides.

With a quarter of a century behind him, Liam Burns has seen a lot in Youghal over the past three decades.  In addition to his colleagues in the office, bar and restaurant, and several assistants, Liam has also worked closely with hundreds of officers and members who volunteer their time on committees.  “Over the years we’ve had many hard working Captains, Presidents and committees improving the club all the time” explained Liam.  “The clubhouse development took place in 1998 and the course development took place in 2003.  This year Management committee under Captain Joe Kirk’s leadership undertook major revenue management action to safe guard our club.  I had many apprentices throughout the early years including David Ryan who is now the Professional in Cahir Park Golf Club, David is a very good player who has played many Irish Opens.”  In addition to running the pro shop, offering lessons and coaching, and assisting the club competitions, Liam is also Junior Officer for the club and he has started to see a change in the numbers of junior golfers taking up the game.  “For last 3 years I’ve been Junior Officer and thankfully numbers have started to increase.  The committee changed the junior tee times from early morning to mid-day, and to twice a week during summer months.  We use various tee boxes depending on juniors abilities, and hold Junior Camps throughout the year as well as Adult and Junior Competition’s.”  Liam has junior camps scheduled for July (9-11) and August (13-15) which is sure to attract interest.  The work is paying off, Youghal went to Cahir Park recently to the East Munster qualifiers of the new Club Under 18 Srokeplay competition.   The team now progresses to the Munster Finals in Tramore Golf Club at the end of July.

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There was also recent success for Youghal in the JB Carr Diamond Trophy, the team beat Fermoy over two legs recently to qualify as Cork County winners.  Youghal beat Cobh 4-1 in their first round match and followed that with a 3-2 win over Mallow in May.  They faced Mitchelstown in the North Cork final which is played over two legs.  Mitchelstown had beaten Charleville and Doneraile in their earlier matches and having reached the county final in 2017 they were hoping for another successful outing.  Youghal had home advantage for the first leg, and they made it count with a final score of 4-1 heading into the second leg.  Youghal needed just two wins from the second leg, and despite a big challenge from Mitchelstown, the East Cork side went through, winning three matches to claim a 7-3 win overall.  Youghal now go on to the provincial series where they will face Limerick winners Castletroy.