The evolving face of club golf in Ireland took another step forward last week with the completion of the Munster Regional Executive Committee elections. Monkstown’s Jim Long is the inaugural Chairman of the provincial arm of Golf Ireland, the new single governing body for golf in Ireland. The former Chairman of Munster Golf will lead a 16 strong committee of regional representatives after a three-stage election process that saw the first regional executive selected.
This marked the completion of another stage of the transition to Golf Ireland, ending the century long administration of the game by the Golfing Union of Ireland for men, and the Irish Ladies Golf Union for ladies. Over the last three years, golf’s governing bodies came together to initially examine the possibility of a single governing body and then to turn that opportunity into a workable proposal. Over the last three years many meetings have taken place but it national regional and club level, and crucially between ladies and gents to ensure that the new national governing body is best equipped to serve all golfers into the future. Up to 2020, golf remained one very few sports to have separate ladies and gents administrations. While both the ILGU and GUI members voted to create golf Ireland last year, the past 12 months have seen both organisations run their individual calendar of events as normal.
Over the last two months and election process got underway which sought to streamline their original structures of both the ILGU and GUI in Munster. On the mens side the old “Munster Branch” was comprised of four officers and 17 Provincial council members while the ILGU Munster District had a total of 13 members. The new combined regional committee is comprised of three officers and 13 members selected from four geographical zones. While Jim Long too the position of Chairman, Waterville’s Moira Lynott was elected Secretary and Limerick’s Peter English was elected Treasurer. Four council members were elected from the Cork region, Marion Pattenden, Dave Prendergast, Mary Bergin and Phil Cooney.
Lee Valley’s Phil Cooney is one of the longest serving volunteers, having being first elected to the Munster Branch in 2006. The former Lee Valley Captain is a Level 3 rules official and was a regular at Munster Championships and Cups and Shields events. He was also the Munster senior interprovincial Captain, winning national honours on two occasions. Dave Prendergast from Cork Golf Club was the outgoing Match & Handicapping Secretary, and as that role no longer exists at regional level he went forward as a council member. Prendergast is also a Level 3 referee and his experience in Munster championships and Cups & Shields will be critical in the coming year.
Skibbereen’s Marion Pattenden is a regular face for all ladies competing in ILGU events having been a rules official for over ten years. Marion was also the Chair of Rules for the Munster District ILGU and was actively involved in rules presentations at many clubs at the last major set of changes to the rules. Shea also held the post of District Secretary for Munster. Monkstown’s Mary Bergin was also elected to the Cork zone. Mary is again an experienced administrator having served in the Munster District Executive since 2016. Mary has been Chair of tournaments since 2017, overseeing over sixty tournaments each year comprising of over 180 separate events. Like Prendergast, her experience will be invaluable once the new season hits full speed in the spring.
There are changes too at head office level. The ILGU are set to leave their Dublin head office in Sandyford as the GUI offices in Carton House become the Golf Ireland headquarters. The ILGU CEO Sinead Heraty and GUI CEO Pat Finn left their roles earlier this year and new Golf Ireland CEO Mark Kennelly takes the helm with the new body. While he has been in place for almost 12 months in the background, Kennelly has now hit the ground running to build a successful platform for the combined entity. In addition to the new CEO, Golf Ireland recently advertised for two key new posts in the senior management team. A Chief Operations Officer will be appointed, and this role will oversee and manage the key operational activities of Golf Ireland including Golf Development, Club Support, Safeguarding and Inclusion. The role will also oversee the operations of the four Golf Ireland regional offices. Golf Ireland is also looking to recruit a Commercial and Marketing Director. This role will lead the management of the commercial, sponsorship and marketing strategies for Golf Ireland. The two new roles will bolster the head office management structure, and should drive operational and commercial success for the new governing body. Both roles are currently open for applications. The launch of a new website, and a new handicap system all took place this month, and while managing the bedding in of both, the Golf Ireland team will also need to consider how Covid-19 will affect golfers next year. Already a decision has been made to host the inter-club competitions on a home and away basis up the area-final stage. This format was used in 2020 and proved successful among clubs and participants. 2021 will see the old Cups & Shields provincial competitions replaced with an eight-region system that will go under the name of the inter-club competitions. Cork has been placed in the East Munster region along with clubs from Tipperary and Waterford.