It’s a big week for Glengarriff Golf Club, the picturesque nine hole course in West Cork is hosting the annual Maureen O’Hara Festival of Golf, taking place all week. It makes the claim that it’s the longest running golf classic in Ireland, and from humble beginnings 35 years ago, the classic has developed into a week-long festival. Last weekend there was a ladies classic held over Friday and Saturday, and mixed open singles on Sunday. This week there were competitions for juveniles, ladies and gents with a mixed foursomes competition taking place today. On Friday and Saturday the gents classic will take place. It’s a team of four open event and there is still some availability for anyone wishing to play. With many local businesses supporting the event, there’s a wide array of prizes on offer, and a share of the proceeds will be donated to Bantry Hospice.
Maureen O’Hara, an honorary Oscar winner was a neighbour of Glengarriff Golf Club, the Dublin born Hollywood star moved to Glengarriff in 1970 and struck up a strong affinity with the people and the area. Along with her husband Charles Blair, the couple were great supporters of the club, and helped develop the classic which would benefit the golf club and the wider community. “The inaugural Golf Classic in 1984 was the brainchild of Maureen O’Hara herself and some of the local golfing and business people” explained Joe Holland, a Glengarriff Trustee who has been a member in club for over 30 years. “After a noticeable decline in tourist numbers visiting this part of West Cork, Maureen’s vision for the Golf Classic was to try to generate some tourist activity for the area before the main tourist season which is traditionally July and August and to raise some much needed funds for the running and upkeep of Glengarriff Golf course and clubhouse. In its early days, the golf classic was played over four days with a Ladies open Singles competition on Thursday and Friday and the Gents four-man team event on Saturday and Sunday. Over the years the Classic has changed and developed and the current format of the tournament is eight days of open competitions and different golfing and social events to attract as many visitors as possible. Over the years Maureen O’Hara always attended the presentations and presented the prizes and this was a great attraction for locals and tourists alike with people arriving an hour or two before presentation to get the best seats to meet the Iconic Hollywood Film Star. She in turn was always willing to talk and entertain the fans and pose for Photos and sign autographs.” The Maureen O’Hara link with the club was a longstanding and meaningful one, as Joe Holland explained: “Maureen O’Hara first came to live in “Lugdine” in Glengarriff with her husband Charles Blair in 1970. While out driving one day looking for a house to buy they arrived in Glengarriff and Charles knew immediately that the area was perfect as he could land a seaplane in the bay and anchor it in Glengarriff Harbour, they bought Lugdine which is Immediately next door to the Golf Club and the rest is history. Following the death of her beloved Husband Charles Blair in 1978, Maureen continued to spend her summers in Glengarriff and made many friends in the area she called her second home. Maureen held the honorary position of Lady President of Glengarriff Golf Club from 1986 until her death in 2015.”
Surrounded by one of Ireland’s oldest oak forests on three sides, the course in Glengarriff provides many of the postcard images of West Cork. With a history that dates back 85 years the nine hole gem has survived many challenges over the years, as many smaller rural clubs have closed, Glengarriff has continued to provide a great course and club experience for members and visitors. “The club was founded in 1934, it’s a spectacular nine hole golf course, surrounded by the Caha mountains and with views out to Garnish Island in Bantry Bay” said Competition Secretary John Tobin. “We have a membership of 200 plus, comprised of 120 local and the remainder national and international members. There is a strong active Ladies, Gents and Juvenile section in the club and weekly competitions include a seniors event every Tuesday, an open scramble and barbeque every Friday followed by Ladies and Gents competitions every Saturday and Sunday and also a Juvenile evening of fun golf on Tuesdays at 6pm.” Managing and maintaining a golf course is a big undertaking, and that was compounded by storm damage last year that had a big impact on the club. However as a community led club, Glengarriff bounced back as John explained. “The course suffered the ravages of a storm in January 2018 with lightening striking a tree on the course and damaging the whole electrical system in the clubhouse as well as the sprinkler system for the greens and some of the fairways. With a lot of hard work from the Committees and the greenkeepers and some volunteers it has been returned to pristine condition again and is looking immaculate for this years Tournament. While the Dr. Maureen O’Hara Blair Memorial Classic is the major event of Glengarriff Golf Club’s yearly calendar, other open classics feature on the yearly fixture list such as the Easter Classic held in April; the Johnny Barry Memorial Classic held in May and the Joe Murphy Memorial Classic held in July.” Green fee visitors are always welcome at the club and there are also regular open competitions. With nine hole rates at just €15, and €20 for 18 holes, visiting Glengarriff is very affordable and well worth the spin to the neck of the Beara peninsula. The upcoming open events include the senior and intermediate scratch cups which take place on Sunday 21st July and the Joe Murphy Memorial on the 26th and 27th July. In August the junior and minor scratch cups take place on Sunday 11th.