Stephanie Meadow signs on as Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort Touring Professional

July 3, 2020

LPGA Tour player, Stephanie Meadow, has signed on as the new Touring Professional for Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort.

The Jordanstown native, one of Ireland’s leading professionals, has been making her mark on the global stage since moving to the United States with family when she was 13 to pursue her dream of becoming a professional golfer.

“I am absolutely delighted to be partnering with Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort. After staying a few times last year, it is easily one of my favourite places in the world,” said the 28-year-old, who is currently based in Arizona in the United States.

“Not many people get the opportunity to represent one of their favourite places in their home country on a world stage. It is the perfect place to stay when visiting Northern Ireland. Thank you to Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort for believing and supporting me.”

One of Meadow’s reasons for returning to Northern Ireland in 2019 was to compete in the brand new ISPS Handa World Invitational Men | Women, played at Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort and Massereene Golf Club.

She won the event in fine style, holding off England’s Charley Hull down the stretch to seal an emotional victory.

“It was fantastic to win at home, especially at Galgorm,” Meadow said after her 2019 win.

“I was inspired by Shane (Lowry) winning The Open at Royal Portrush. I just wanted to show fans at home just how good I am because I hadn’t competed in Ireland since turning professional.”

Colin Johnston, Managing Director Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort, said: “Stephanie is a talented professional who demonstrates real commitment and application to achieving success and we are thrilled to have Stephanie as our Touring Professional.

“Her profile in the women’s game in the United States and competing around the world gives us an incredible opportunity to showcase The Resort and place Northern Ireland on the worldwide stage. We look forward to working closely with Stephanie and wish her every success on the course when things return to normality.”

Stephanie enjoyed a stellar amateur career at Alabama University before joining the paid ranks in 2014 making a sensational professional debut by finishing third in the 2014 US Women’s Open at Pinehurst.

She also won the 2018 IOA Championship on the US Symetra Tour and cites representing Ireland at the 2016 Olympics in Rio as one of the highlights of her career so far.

“It has been a challenging year for everyone. We are hoping to get back playing by the end of the month. Our schedule is pretty packed until December and cannot I wait to get going and get back to some sort of normality,” added Meadow, who despite the Covid-19 pandemic got engaged to fiancé Kyle in recent months.

Gary Henry, Managing Director, Galgorm Castle Estates, said: “Although Stephanie spends most her time in the States, she continues to help grow the game closer to home as an ambassador for the 20×20 initiative to raise the profile of women in sport. Stephanie has long been an inspiration for young golfers here in Ireland.”

“We are delighted to have this new agreement with Stephanie and we wish her every success as the new Touring Professional of Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort.”

Back from the dead – the golf club membership

June 16, 2020

Kirkistown Castle GC has seen huge demand for membership

The humble golf club membership is back from the dead.
So long pilloried and derided, clubs are suddenly finding their timesheets full to capacity again.
A number of NI clubs have picked up in excess of 100 members in the period since golf got the go-ahead to return in mid-May.
And while some clubs have offered very attractive deals to get punters to sign up, that’s definitely not been the case across the board.
“Within the first week of opening again, we had received over 80 applications for membership,” said the Kirkistown Castle GM, Tracey McDowell.
“To date, we have welcomed over 100 members ranging from the young to the ‘young at heart’.

“Our golf professional team has also been extremely busy with new lesson packages and coaching for new members, obviously adhering to the social distancing protocols. We have been blown away by the interest.”

When the NI Executive and the Irish Government gave golf the go-ahead to return, the stipulation that it was ‘members only’ immediately put real value back on membership.
For the last month, golf has been the only show in town and it just happened to coincide with some sparkling weather.
If you play team sports you have been left kicking your heels and golf has provided that competitive outlet and if you are furloughed you might as well get out into the fresh air and play some golf rather than sit around the house all day.
In fact, between the imposed wider tee-time gaps and the extra bodies, some clubs are having to ration the number of rounds people can play in a week.
The financial boost will have been a god-send for many clubs who were looking at a very bleak picture in mid-March as Covid lockdown took a firm grip.
It is however naive to think that an influx of new members will somehow fill club coffers. It’s a sticking plaster. Clubs are still rationalising, they are furloughing staff.
There has been no society golf, no Open Weeks full of visitors and the bars and restaurants remain closed.
As yet, Ireland’s governing bodies have not followed in the footsteps of their Welsh and Scottish counterparts by offering any refund on affiliation fees. 
Clubs have been granted some breathing space and the task now is to somehow convert these new recruits into long-term members.

There has never been a more important time for members to support their clubs

May 4, 2020

Concra Wood GC

If you’re a golfer, the last few weeks have been a kind of torture.
A long wet winter that curtailed opportunities to play has been replaced by beautiful spring sunshine.
It’s perfect golfing weather but instead of being on the course, golfers have rightly been sat at home along with everyone else.
Now, with May 18th signalling a tentative restart to activity, the bigger question remains if clubs can survive the impact that social distancing will have on the industry as a whole.
“There has never been a more important period for members to support their clubs,” said Concra Wood Head Professional, Conor McKenna.
“The lockdown could not have come at a more damaging time of the year for clubs just as many members would traditionally have paid their fees for the next 12 months.
“Understandably, with all the disruption and uncertainty over the future and worries over work and money, many existing club members will have opted to hold off on those payments.
“With club bars and restaurants closed and unlikely to be reopened in the short term, clubs will be relying heavily on those membership fees to see them through the bumpy financial road that lines ahead.”
Modern golf clubs are much more than simply places for sport and recreation. They reach across into the hospitality, tourism and retail sectors in an effort to stay afloat.
In the ‘business’ of running a golf club, membership fees alone will rarely generate enough revenue to maintain a financially viable operation.
Most golf clubs rely on a greater or lesser extent to takings from restaurant and bar operations. Those funds are topped up by casual green fees, society bookings and corporate outings.

Conor McKenna (Head Professional Concra Wood GC), with the late Christy O’Connor Jnr

A club like Concra Wood, will welcome thousands of golfing visitors every year who spend money in the pro shop and buy food and drink in the bar and restaurant.
In the height of the summer, Concra Wood will provide work for upwards of 35 people but it only takes a couple of those revenue streams to be taken away for a club to find itself under severe financial pressure. That, unfortunately, is now the situation currently facing clubs right across Ireland.
“I know people are really missing their weekly fix of golf. You only have to look at the reaction to some of the club’s recent social media posts but it already feels like this year is going to be a bit of a wipeout in terms of competitive golf,” added Conor.
“All the ILGU and GUI inter-club events are currently postponed. Fingers crossed we might see some of those played before the end of the year.

“Looking long-term, this should have been the year to attract youngsters to the game on the back of Shane Lowry’s brilliant win at The Open last July. We obviously had to cancel our Easter Coaching Camp, and as long as social distancing remains in place, we won’t be able to do any group coaching for juniors which is very disappointing.”

Golf’s governing bodies are working on a new set of protocols for clubs in a COVID-19 world but getting some type of support from government could be the key to survival.
“The uncertainty isn’t helping either,” said Kevin McGivern, the professional at Mannan Castle GC.
“It’s very much unknown territory for everyone but I really feel the impact of the Coronavirus could turn out to be more significant than the financial crisis a decade or so ago.
“Look at the weather we have had in the last five weeks. That is revenue that clubs across Ireland have lost in terms of green fees, classics, societies and things like that.
“People also have to remember that the greens staff have been working away and they still have to be paid. Obviously, there is support available from the government but machines have to be maintained. You can’t just leave the course alone at this time of the year, it would be overgrown in no-time.”
Kevin, like Conor, is anticipating a much different golfing environment when restrictions finally do get lifted. The traditional four-ball of mates out playing for a few euro on a Saturday could be some months away.
He continued;  “It’s going to be a strange season but there might actually be some opportunities for golf. Team sports are likely to be curtailed for a longer period. If you’re looking for some competitive sport, golf could be the perfect outlet. Now, all we need is for some good weather in the middle of the summer.”

Amateur golf urges sensible precautions in battle against Coronavirus

March 12, 2020


Sport is not immune from the effects of Coronavirus but the wide-open spaces of a golf course could provide some respite from the panic buying of nappies and hand sanitizers.
The game’s amateur bodies, the Irish Ladies Golfing Union (ILGU) and the Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI) issued an update to clubs yesterday in the wake of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s decision to close schools, colleges and childcare facilities until 29 March because of Covid-19.
Far from sounding a note of doom, the update outlined sensible steps to keep club golf going whilst trying to minimise the potential for spreading the disease amongst staff and older members.

“The Unions recognise the need for adherence to the revised guidelines as issued by the HSE today (12th March 2020) and encourage golf clubs to observe them fully. The restrictions (from 6pm today until Sunday 29th March) do not prevent club competitions or casual rounds of golf taking place, however we need to be cogniscant of the social nature of our game and how this element of it is impacted.”

For more info visit GolfNet – https://www.golfnet.ie/news/golfnet/4622/statement-on-covid-19-from-gui-and-ilgu

At the same time however, both governing bodies revealed that they had opted to cancel or postpone a number of tournaments, coaching sessions and events.
The most high profile tournament to fall by the wayside is the Irish Girls’ Open Stroke Play which was scheduled for Roganstown Golf Club from April 3-5.
The tournament is technically outside the period of restriction but with a significant international field expected the decision was made to cancel it.

For more info on events postponed or cancelled – https://www.golfnet.ie/news/golfnet/4622/statement-on-covid-19-from-gui-and-ilgu

‘It’s a privilege to host your national open’ – Rory confirms DDF Irish Open return at Mount Juliet

February 28, 2020


Rory McIlroy will make a much-anticipated return to the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open when the World Number One tees it up at Mount Juliet Estate from May 28-31.
The four-time Major winner will join his fellow Northern Irishman, and tournament host Graeme McDowell, in a star-studded field which also includes defending champion Jon Rahm and the reigning Open Champion Shane Lowry.
McIlroy will be targeting a second victory in an event which he himself hosted from 2015 to 2018 – helping elevate the historic national open to become one of the European Tour’s eight premier Rolex Series events.
The 30-year-old famously lifted the trophy in 2016, delighting the home crowds with a swashbuckling display down the stretch to hold off Scot Russell Knox – who went on to claim the title in 2017 – and Welshman Bradley Dredge.
“It’s a privilege to be able to host your national open. It sometimes takes a little bit away from what you are doing on the golf course but I think if you manage your time well and get your work in first [you’ll be fine],” said Rory.
“The first time I played in 2015 I think I maybe didn’t prepare properly for the tournament and that showed. But then going on from that and winning in 2016 I was able to step back a little bit, focus on my game but still try to be a good host I guess.
“There is a lot going on and you can be pulled from pillar to post most of the week but I think that anyone who hosts a tournament knows what they are getting themselves into.”

“I’m looking forward to it a lot,” said McIlroy.
“It’s a bit different going back for a May date as opposed to July, and at a parkland course at Mount Juliet. I’ve never played the course but got good memories – it was the first time I ever watched Tiger Woods play in person.

“My dad drove me down and we watched the WGC there and that was really cool, so it’ll be exciting to tee it up there myself and try to win a tournament there.”

Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, said: “We are delighted that Rory has confirmed his attendance at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Mount Juliet. Our involvement as title sponsor of the tournament began when Rory took on the hosting duties in 2015 and he did a great job in raising the profile of the event.
“We are looking forward to a great week in Kilkenny and working with Mount Juliet, the European Tour, this year’s host Graeme McDowell, Sport Ireland and all of the other entities to make this event a great success.”
Mount Juliet Estate already boasts a prestigious list of winners after a three-year stint of hosting the event – with Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer and Sam Torrance winning there in 1993, 1994 and 1995 respectively – and McIlroy will be hoping to join this list in May.

Open Legacy Community Golf Programme creates Inclusive Golf workshops for PGA Professionals

February 23, 2020

(l-r) Brian McCabrey, Mervyn Nelson, Mark Gibson, Janet Adams at Donaghadee GC

The Golfing Union of Ireland (Ulster Branch) and the Confederation of Golf in Ireland (CGI) have been successful in obtaining funding to support golf clubs across Northern Ireland to take part in The Open Legacy Community Golf Programme.
As part of the Open Legacy Community Golf Programme this year, CGI are running two inclusive golf coaching workshops for PGA professionals.
This will be the first time that this coaching workshop has been run in Ireland and it will be delivered by PGA Fellow Professional Craig Thomas who is a PGA Tutor and Lead Coach at The ISPS Handa Academy.
The workshops, which will be held at the GUI/ ILGU Regional Coaching Centre at Greenmount, aims to equip PGA Professionals with the knowledge and confidence to support people with a disability, of all abilities in any coaching environment, recognise talent and help talented participants progress on to an appropriate competition pathway.
The workshop also aims to give PGA Professionals an opportunity to put theory into practice during the practical coaching session delivered to people with a disability as part of the workshop.
Professionals do not have to be currently coaching disabled people but should be interested in getting involved in coaching in this area.

By the end of the workshop, participants will be able to:
– reflect on past experiences and recognise and share best practice
– make appropriate modifications, adaptations and progressions to a planned session to include all participants
– explore the participant pathway for disabled participants within disability sport
– identify the basic elements of classification in relation to disability sport
– know where to go for further disability sport-specific information

Places are free but limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis. All places must be booked in advance via the following links.
Venue: GUI/ ILGU regional training facility at Greenmount, Antrim.

Wednesday 25th March,10.30am-3.30pm  
https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/inclusive-golf-coaching-for-pga-professionals-25th-march-tickets-93043308039

Thursday 26th March,10.30am-3.30pm 
https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/inclusive-golf-coaching-for-pga-professionals-26th-march-tickets-93047552735

Peoples kickstarts 2020 at Kirkistown UGC event

February 6, 2020


Andrew Peoples posted a four-under-par 65 to win the most recent Ulster Golfers’ Alliance event at Kirkistown Castle.
The Andrew Morris Golf man got down to business right away with a chip-and-putt birdie four at the first and a six-iron to six feet set him up for birdie two at the fourth.
However, his charge was briefly halted as he missed the green at the fifth failed to get up and down, recording a bogey.
That was only a brief halt in his run up the leaderboard as Peoples pencilled in his second birdie two of the day at the eighth after hitting the front of the green and rolling home a 33-foot putt.
Turning in two-under-par 33 he collected another birdie at the 13th, holing from six feet after a drive and four iron to the green, That was followed by his final birdie of the day at the par-four 15th where, after being short of the green, he pitched to a foot.
Chris Elliott, who plays off 20 at Spa, collected the amateur’s nett prize on 40 points while the gross winner was 1986 North of Ireland Amateur Championship runner-up Paddy O’Donnell, a Whitehead three-handicapper.
Knock Club members, professional Ricky Whitford plus amateurs Harry McKee, Simon Swail and Mark McKee, posted 88 points to win the team prize.

Gary Chambers

Meanwhile, some major changes have been announced to the remainder of this season’s fixtures. At the recent AGM, Gary Chambers took over the Chairman’s seat and in his honour, an outing for the members has been slotted in at his club Killymoon for Wednesday, February 18.
That means that the ‘away annual fixture’ has been pushed back for a week and it will be staged at Laytown & Bettystown on February 25.  A fourball betterball 36-hole professionals’ only tournament will be played on March 3 and 10 at Royal Portrush and Royal County Down, respectively, and the usual UGA monthly outing will now take place on March 24 at Ballycastle.
The season-ending Race to Lough Erne will be staged on March 31 with the UGA members having a final fling as a two-day overnight pro-am had been added to the fixtures list. It will be played on April 20 and 21 at Glasson Lakehouse Resort.

PGA in Ireland Fixtures

Major champ Lowry joins stars on show at Mount Juliet

February 3, 2020


Shane Lowry will make his first competitive appearance on home soil since winning the Open Championship, when he plays at Mount Juliet Estate on May 28-31, 2020.
The 32-year-old lifted the Claret Jug last July in front of the delirious home crowds at Royal Portrush Golf Club, confirming his status as an Irish sporting legend.
It was Lowry’s second victory of a career-defining season, which also included a maiden Rolex Series title at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship earlier in the year.
“I can’t wait to tee it up in front of my home crowds at Mount Juliet in May,” said Lowry, who famously won his home open as an amateur in 2009.
“It’s always such an honour to play in front of the Irish fans and they have always been so supportive of me. They played such a massive part in my win at Portrush last July, so teeing up as Open champion at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open will be a great moment.

“With Graeme hosting the event – I know he’s keen to build on the momentum in Irish golf at the moment – and the fact it will be the May Bank Holiday weekend in Ireland, I think it’s going to make for an incredible festival atmosphere at Mount Juliet, much like Lahinch last year. I am honestly so excited for it.”

Lowry joins World Number Three Jon Rahm as the second superstar to be officially confirmed for the 2020 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, where the Spanish talent will defend his title and target a third victory in the historic national open having triumphed at Lahinch Golf Club in 2019.
Mount Juliet Estate already boasts a prestigious list of winners after a three-year stint of hosting the event – with Sir Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer and Sam Torrance winning there in 1993, 1994 and 1995 respectively – and Rahm will be hoping to join another prestigious list this May.
The luxury five-star resort in Kilkenny also hosted Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf in 1997, a challenge match between Tom Watson and Fred Couples, won by the latter, as well as the WGC-American Express Championship in 2002 and 2004 – won by Tiger Woods and Ernie Els respectively.

Early bird ticket prices for the 2020 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open begin at €13 for the Wednesday Pro-Am day, with Thursday and Friday day tickets available for a special price of €23 and Saturday and Sunday tickets beginning at €27. Fans can enjoy five days of world-class golf and entertainment for only €83 if they purchase their early bird season tickets prior to March 3.
Children under 12 years of age are entitled to free entry when accompanied by an adult, day junior tickets for those between 12 and 17 years of age are €10 (€25 for a season ticket) while students aged between 18 and 24 with valid student cards, and over 65s, can avail of a concession ticket – €15 for Thursday and Friday, €20 for Saturday and Sunday (€60 for a season). Parking access can be purchased for €5 per day, or €10 for a season parking ticket which covers all five days.
The only official sales channel to purchase tickets for this year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open is via the ticketing platform Eventbrite (here). The resale of Dubai Duty Free Irish Open tickets on unofficial platforms contravenes the European Tour’s ticket terms and conditions and such sales render the ticket void.
Official Hospitality tickets are also available on the ticketing page, or alternatively contact the European Tour’s dedicated Hospitality Sales Team, who will be happy to answer any queries and discuss the various hospitality options, on hospitality@europeantour.com, register your interest here or +44 (0) 1344 840681.

Spa GC pro Wardlow takes the UGA spoils at home

January 25, 2020


Adaptability is the watchword for regulars of the Ulster Golfers’ Alliance.
The start of the most recent event at Spa GC, which had been switched from Ardglass, was held up by a sharp frost that necessitated a hasty two-tee redraw.
When play finally got underway at 10.30am it was no surprise to see the local professional, Gary Wardlow find his way to the top of the leaderboard.
Wardlow’s one under par 71 saw him edge out the in-form Brian McElhinney (Evolve Golf Coaching) and Simon Thornton (Tulfarris Golf Resort).
Gary started his round at the par-five first, and immediately went into the red with birdie four, chipping and putting after being short of the green with a drive and four iron.
He dropped a shot at the third, but got back under par at the ninth, holing from 10 feet.
Out in one-under-par 35, some ice on the fringe of the 10th cost him another shot.
A pair of back-to-back birdies at the 14th and 15th holes proved to be decisive. He three-stabbed the 16th green for bogey five but two pars to finish were sufficient to bring him home in level par 36 for a round of one-under-71.
Amateurs Tommy Lyttle (Carrickfergus) and Steve Goldthorpe (Clandeboye) shared top of the nett leaderboard with the former taking first place on countback. The gross award went to Malone’s Ward Farrell who carded 75.
It was double success for Gary Wardlow as he also led home the winning team, again on countback. Wardlow and amateurs – Paul McKenna, Gwyneth Cordner and Marion Armstrong – returned 89 points.
The next outing will be on Monday, February 3 at Kirkistown Castle.

Ulster Golfers’ Alliance Tournament at Spa
Professionals: 71 (-1) – G Wardlow (Spa).
72 – B McElhinney (Evolve Golf Coaching), S Thornton (Tulfarris Golf Resort).
73 – C Lyall (Donaghadee).
74 – M Cochran (American Golf).
75 – N Murray (Unattached), C Carvill (Belvoir Pk), R Whitford (Knock).
Amateurs: Nett 39 pts – T Lyttle 10 (Carrickfergus) … 1st on back nine;
39 – S Goldthorpe 17 (Clandeboye).
38 – L Hale 20 (Shandon Pk).
37 – M Dunlop 11 (Massereene).
Gross 75 (+3) – W Farrell 3 (Malone).
Team: 89 pts – Pro G Wardlow (Spa) with amateurs Phil McKenna 12, Gyweth Cordner 17 & M Armstrong 11.

 

Info courtesy of Tony McGee

PGA in Ireland season opener set for Pat Ruddy’s European Club

January 23, 2020

Pat Ruddy and Shane Jenkinson

Leading Irish golfing figure, Pat Ruddy, has confirmed that he will host a €10,000 PGA in Ireland Pro-Am at the European Club on March 22.
The European Club Pro-Am sponsored by Pat Ruddy will be open to a limited field based on the 2019 PGA in Ireland Order of Merit rankings
Ruddy said: “I have loved everything about golf for many years but nothing more than watching the professionals play and being allowed to play beside them.
“Tournament professionals and club professionals forget time when the stories start to flow, and enabling people to forget time and worldly cares is one of the great elixirs of golf.
“There was a time, in the 1960s through the 1980s, that I knew and loved every professional in Ireland from Phil Lawlor at The Curragh through to Johnny McGonagle at County Sligo, Danny O’Brien and Walter Sullivan who mixed-in a bit of inspired course design with their other skills, and the greats like Christy O’Connor, Fred Daly and Harry Bradshaw. Then it changed. Many of my pals died. Others retired and the names over the golf shops changed totally.

“Now the time has come to renew acquaintance with the PGA professionals and to have our members at The European Club share in the exciting experience of trying to match shots with the visiting maestros! What fun they will have, ‘giving the line’, golfwise and chatwise, to our visitors.”

Ruddy and the PGA in Ireland have worked closely together on numerous events over the years, most famously in 2007 with the staging of the Irish PGA Championship at the European Club.
On that occasion, the PGA in Ireland regional manager, Michael McCumiskey, along with Ruddy and Padraig Harrington, conspired to breathe new life into the event while offering the Dubliner some high quality links practice.
It was a relationship that bore dividends for all parties with Harrington winning the Irish PGA Championship three times in row 07/08/09 while crediting the event as a key component in his Open Championship victories of 2007 and 2008.
In more recent years, the European Club has provided a testing ground for Ireland’s PGA trainees and assistants via the The Ruddy Cup for Young Professionals. The 18-hole pro-only event was a welcome addition to the tournament schedule with Ciaran Molloy (2016), Richard Kilpatrick (2017) and Shane Jenkinson (2018) securing the title.
PGA in Ireland Regional Manager, Michael McCumiskey, said; “I first encountered Pat Ruddy in a professional capacity way back in 1986 when he invited the PGA in Ireland to become involved in events at Waterville and Killarney.
“That support continued with an Annual Challenge staged in the 1990s between the GUI Senior team and our PGA players and in more recent times via the Ruddy Cup for Young Professionals.
“This new event at the European Club, one the premier links courses in Ireland, will act as the pipe-opener to another busy competitive season.”