Simon O’Hara took as the Course Superintendent in Cork Golf Club last year, and the Currabinny native is relishing the new role in the famous Little Island links. Having worked in Fota Island for close to 20 years, O’Hara was an ideal candidate to take over from Anthony Gillis who retired last year. While the move was from one island to another, O’Hara has had an interesting journey to get to Cork. “I have had a fortunate life, a great upbringing in Currabinny, Co. Cork, with lots of outdoor pursuits; sailing, swimming, fishing, and lots of sports” explained Simon, “I was given a great appreciation of nature and landscapes by my artistic Parents, Anna and Patrick. Whilst I always wanted to work outdoors, the path was not so obvious, but during my early college adventures, I had the great fortune to be introduced to golf by some friends, and the even better bit of luck was to get a job as a greenkeeper in the USA during a J1 working holiday. It was a job I really enjoyed, despite the summer heat of Virginia. Every job you completed you would see the benefits and could take great pride in making a difference.” After that experience it was back to UCC where Simon would go on to complete to a Masters in History, but his time on the golf course in America had left a lasting impression. “As I completed my Masters at UCC, with the seemingly impossible prospect trying to find the perfect job, I yearned to return to greenkeeping, and duly extended my college education at CSN, Tramore road, enrolling in their level 6 greenkeeping course. It was one of my better decisions. A great year followed, including working with Martin Travers in Monkstown, who was an amazing role model.”
After the course, Travers put Simon in touch with the team at Fota, and he landed a job at the venue that was then just an 18 hole course. It must have been an amazing 19 years in Fota, as the venue was transformed from a nice parkland into a five star European Tour Resort. Going back the years, there was very little in Fota apart from potential. The old course had been transformed by Jeff Howes, and that started a journey that would last over a decade as further improvements were made to the original nine holes, and the “new” nine and the Academy were all developed. “My time at Fota was amazing, working within a fantastic and progressive team, well guided by Con O’Driscoll. Mount Juliet’s connection with Fota added the experience of working for two World Golf Championship events. Fota’s continued development, with the additional nine holes, driving range and short game academy, along with very high-end sport’s pitches, ensured that I was in a great learning environment. Of the many brilliant experiences that I had a Fota, perhaps the best ones are from the culmination of each of the Irish Opens, when you can sit back on the final Sunday, knowing that the entire team had done its very best, and presented fantastic playing surfaces to some very demanding, but very appreciative customers.”
While working in Fota, Simon upskilled himself with additional qualifications, they included a Diploma in Irrigation system design, and a Masters degree in Sports Turf Science. The experience and the qualfications all helped when it came to the new job in Cork. “Whilst I enjoyed every moment of Fota, when the job opportunity at Cork Golf Club arrived, I jumped at the prospect. Whilst all greenkeeper’s aspire to presenting the best playing surfaces, Cork has the added attraction as a course with so many interesting and unique features. There are varied sections including woodland, coastline, old quarries, wild flowers and wetlands, that combined with its MacKenzie history, makes it a golf course of infinite possibilities” said Simon. “My continued good fortune was underlined by the exceptionally warm welcome I was given by all at Cork Golf Club” explained Simon. “My predecessor, Anthony Gillis, left me in the very capable hands of an amazing crew with many outstanding qualities.
My work with the Green’s Committee and Matt Sands, has been a pleasure. In greenkeeping it is rare to ever find a perfect solution, but with this committee we have been able to tease out the best opportunities that we hope will maximise the potential of this course. Everyone at Cork shares in the passion for this amazing course. The many hours of volunteer work that all the various committee’s do and have done, never fails to impress me. Recently many of the club members also spent two full Sunday afternoon’s collecting rubbish from the shoreline. I am greatly indebted to all, and for the offers of further works to improve the course. Over the last year I have been learning everything I can about the golf course, and have been helped enormously by the committees, members, and my team members. Everyone shares the passion for this place, and have contributed many ideas for the continued progression of this great golf course. We have collectively teased out some excellent ideas, with a new chipping green that will come into play shortly, some new tees being built, and further refinements ongoing to our wetlands, woodlands, wildflower and quarry areas. I consider myself an incredibly lucky individual to work as a golf course superintendent at Cork Golf Club, it’s an amazing golf course with infinite possibilities.”