North & West Coast Links take Irish golf crusade on the road to PGA Show

January 21, 2018

John McLaughlin (right), CEO of North and West Coast Links Golf Ireland, and John Farren (left), Manager of Ballyliffin Golf Club are pictured at last year’s PGA Show with 2010 US Open Champion Graeme McDowell

The eyes of the golfing world will be focussed on some of Ireland’s finest links courses this week when golf marketing company North & West Coast Links Golf Ireland attends The PGA Show in Orlando, Florida (Jan 23 – 26).
The PGA Show is the biggest industry golf show in the world attracting more than 40,000 visitors with over 1,000 media from 25 countries and this year’s event will see North & West Coast Links fly the flag for a number of Irish golf courses and hotels, including the spectacular Ballyliffin Golf Club, host venue for this year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
To tee the week off in style, the company has organised an Irish Golf Day prior to the show on behalf of the Irish Golf Trade and in association with main sponsor Tourism Ireland, with over 100 golf tour operators, golf media, group leaders and Irish golf trade representatives signed up to take part at The Golden Bear Club at Keene’s Point, Orlando.
In addition to meeting with a range of delegates to attract more visitors to Ireland, North & West Coast Links will also be using the show to launch its new brochure and website
As a key part of the Tourism Ireland stand, this is the 29th year in succession that North & West Coast Links has attended the show, promoting a range of bespoke golf tour packages to member courses including Royal Portrush, host venue for The Open in 2019, Ballyliffin, Carne, Enniscrone, Donegal, Narin & Portnoo, Rosapenna, Castlerock, Portstewart, Ardglass, Galway Bay, Westport and Portsalon.
In addition to the golf courses, the company also develops tour packages with a range of partner hotels including The Ardilaun, Mount Falcon Estate, Harvey’s Point, Ballyliffin Townhouse, The Bushmills Inn, the Hastings Hotels group and many more.
North and West Coast Links CEO John McLaughlin said:  “The PGA Show is quite simply one of the most important industry events in the global golf calendar.
“Ireland enjoys a special place on the global golf stage with some of the best courses in the world supported by a unique approach to hospitality which makes it very marketable to international visitors.  The PGA Show provides us with an extremely valuable platform to meet industry representatives from over 100 countries.”

“The increasing world profile of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in recent years at some of the links courses we represent, including this year’s event at Ballyliffin, provides us with a very attractive proposition from which to develop bespoke golf tour packages with some of Ireland’s outstanding links venues.

“Interest to date has been significant from the US and various European markets and with The Open being staged in Northern Ireland at Royal Portrush in 2019, links golf in this part of the world is really on the up,” concluded John.
The PGA Show runs from Tuesday January 23 to Friday January 26 at Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, and showcases the latest trends in golf with more than 1,000 interactive exhibits that cover a range of sectors including equipment, clothing, training, technology and gifts, as well as golf travel and tourism.
Over the course of 2018, North & West Coast Links will target the UK, US, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand and selected Asian Markets, taking part in over 30 International shows and events in its efforts to grow the valuable international golf visitor numbers to Ireland.

North & West Coast Links Golf Ireland is a Golf Marketing and Destination Management Company (DMC) that carries out a range of marketing activities for its member clubs on a cooperative marketing basis.  The company has 29 years’ experience of promoting Irish links golf to golf tour operators and golf enthusiasts around the world.

Copy courtesy of Duffy/Rafferty Communications


Team NI target three-in-a-row following sensational 2017 Belfast golfing experience

January 4, 2018

Team NI celebrate Writer Cup 2017 success

Whisper it quietly, but the worm may have turned.
Northern Ireland’s golfing journalists retained the Writer Cup in 2017. That’s right, two in row! So long the whipping boys, Team NI has finally found a backbone.
The eighth edition of the Writer Cup – the Ryder Cup style event hosted by Tourism NI that pitches Northern Ireland journalists against Republic of Ireland journalists was played at Holywood GC and Royal Belfast GC.
While most of the golfing focus in Northern Ireland gravitates towards our classic links venues – Royal Portrush, RCD, Portstewart etc – Belfast can provide a unique golfing experience of its own.
Nine-holers, municipal courses, Championship venues – Belfast has pretty much every option available. There’s driving ranges and even an indoor facility – Citi Golf – when the conditions take a turn for the worse.
Staying and playing in Belfast means you can make the most of a city that has been branded ‘the best place to visit in 2018’ by top travel guide Lonely Planet.
Inspired by the surroundings of Rory McIlroy’s home course, Team NI completed a day one whitewash in the fourballs at Holywood GC to grab a commanding 4-0 lead.
The teams were treated to a wonderful evening meal at Belfast’s McHugh’s Bar after which they retreated to their base for the evening, the Hilton Hotel, near the iconic Waterfront Hall.
Team ROI had a mountain to climb in the day two singles which were staged at the historic Royal Belfast GC.
Needing just two points to retain the title a comfortable victory appeared on the cards for the ‘home’ side.
In the end, the outcome was much closer than anyone expected with ROI winning the singles 4.5 to 3.5.
It was not enough (thankfully) to prevent Team NI collecting the trophy for the second year in succession by a 7.5 to 4.5 margin. Can they make it a hat-trick of successes in 2018?

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Holywood GC and Royal Belfast are both situated just outside Belfast within 30 minutes drive of the Hilton Hotel.

Plans for new clubhouse at Holywood GC

Holywood GC

Holywood GC has recently embarked on an ambitious development plan which will transform the club in the next 18 months.
The clubhouse is set for a major upgrade to include new facilities including, a state of the art fitness suite, an indoor golf simulator and entertainment room and a Golf Academy complete with the latest technology.
In preparation for these changes, the 18th green has already been moved further away from the clubhouse and remodelled. The course is an 18 hole undulating parkland neighbouring Redburn Country Park. It overlooks the city and Belfast Lough with views that are unrivalled in the area.
To score well requires accurate driving as opposed to length and good approach shots are needed to find the greens.
Rory McIlroy stated that; “Holywood was a great course for me to learn the game on, it has all the traits that develop your game from playing it regularly. It helps you to learn to shape your shots, places emphasis on your short game and creates more versatile and adaptable golf game through the variety of different shots encountered. I have no doubt that the course helped me to become the golfer I am today.”

Looking down in the eighth green and to the left the ninth fairway at Royal Belfast

Royal Belfast
Founded in 1881, Royal Belfast Golf Club lays claim to the title of the oldest golf course in Ireland. The present layout dates back to 1925, when responsibility for the design was handed to the now revered course architect Harry Colt.
With the assistance of Walker Cup player W.A. Murray, Colt produced a course of great charm which provides a true test of skill and enjoys unrivalled views of Belfast Lough and the Antrim plateau beyond.
Royal Belfast is always meticulously maintained with impeccable greens and groves of rhododendrons and gorse providing a colourful backdrop in spring. There is a secluded, timeless feel to the club, one that has attracted the likes of tour players Michael Hoey and Rory McIlroy to play and practice at the venue.
At the heart of its varied challenges is the constant requirement for accuracy rather than length, providing all levels of golfer with a fair test of golf. The numerous bunkers and subtly sloped greens ensure that posting a low score is indeed a difficult feat.
It offers a stern golfing challenge, and the club has hosted numerous championships, most recently the Senior British Open Amateur Championship won by Spain’s Macarena Campomanes Eguiguren

Paul Dunne, Leona Maguire and Paul McBride collect Irish Golf Writers’ Awards

December 27, 2017

Paul Dunne, the 25-year-old Greystones player, received the “Professional of the Year” award from the Irish Golf Writers’ Association at the annual awards, sponsored by Allianz, held at Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links.
Dunne enjoyed a breakthrough year in just his second full season on tour with victory in the British Masters at Close House in England in October, where his chip-in on the 72nd hole – voted as the PGA European Tour’s shot of the month – gave him a closing round 61 for a total of 20-under-par 260, three shots clear of runner-up Rory McIlroy.
In a season where he jumped from 275th in the official world rankings up to a current position of 76th, Dunne – who had five top-10 finishes, including the win in the British Masters and a runner-up to Edoardo Molinari in the Hassan Trophy –  finished 16th in the final Race to Dubai standings with prize money of €1.7 million.
Leona Maguire, the world number one ranked amateur player, earned the “Women’s Amateur of the Year” award after a standout season in which the 23-year-old from Co. Cavan won the British Ladies Amateur Championship at Pyle & Kenfig in Wales. Maguire beat Spain’s Ainhoa Olarra 3 and 2 in the final.

Maguire, a student at Duke University in the United States, was also the dominant player on the US collegiate circuit with five victories in the calendar year – the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, the LSU Tiger Classic, the ACC Championship, the Jim West Challenge and the Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invite – where she was named WGCA Player of the Year.
Paul McBride, a member of The Island Golf Club and a student at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, was the sole Irish representative on the Great Britain and Ireland team which was defeated by the United States in the Walker Cup.

McBride, 22, reached the quarter-final of the British Amateur championship and made the cut playing in the Porsche European Open on the PGA European Tour. The top-ranked Irish men’s player in the amateur world rankings – currently ranked 41st – McBride played a critical role in Ireland retaining the Home Internationals where he was unbeaten and won four and a half points from five matches.
Gavin Caldwell, the former captain of the R&A, and Michael Moss, the retired general manager of Portstewart Golf Club which played host to the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, received “Distinguished Services to Golf” awards.

Magnificient Mooney claims the spoils at Kirkistown Castle GC

December 22, 2017

Damien Mooney

Eight birdie Damian Mooney left the rest of the field trailing in his wake at the Ping PGA Ulster Golfers’ Alliance event at Kirkistown Castle.
Damian (Damian Mooney Golf) shot out of the blocks, reaching five-under-par after seven holes. At the long first hole he was on the green with a drive and five iron to set up a birdie four.
He was short of the green at the third but chipped and putted for a birdie three. He rifled an eight iron approach to four feet for a two at the par three fourth and he then holed out from six feet for his third birdie in a row on the fifth green.
Damian drove off the seventh tee into a greenside bunker but got up-and-down for a birdie three which helped him reach the turn in five under par 30.
The Belfast golfer parred the 10th and reached six-under at the short 11th following a sand wedge to eight feet. The rollicking run was ended when he missed both the 13th and 16th greens and failed to get-up-and-down but those two dropped shots were recovered with back-to-back birdies at the 17th and 18th.
Brian McElhinney (North West GC) finished second following a three-under par 66 with David Hughes (Massereene GC) a shot further back in third.
Jason McLaughlin, a Greencastle three-handicapper, won the Category One amateurs’ section with 40 points while Julian Wilson, who plays off 20 at Shandon Park, won the Overall Nett prize with 46 points.
Mooney also led home the winning team with amateurs Rodney Clarke (Dunmurry), Luke Thompson (Kirkistown Castle) and Niall Gallagher (Hilton Templepatrick) combining to card 93pts.

Ping PGA Ulster Golfers’ Alliance event at Kirkistown Castle Leaderboard

Thanks to Tony McGee

Driven Mehaffey targets Curtis Cup and NCAA Championship double in 2018

December 19, 2017

Olivia Mehaffey in action with ASU

Christmas, a time to relax and unwind unless, that is, you’re Olivia Mehaffey (RCDL).
The 20-year-old Irish international hasn’t stopped since flying back home from the US where she is in the second year of a golf scholarship at Arizona State University.
Olivia is in full prep mode, planning for a 2018 that she hopes will include a successful defence of the Curtis Cup with GB&I and the NCAA Championship title with her college teammates.
The Banbridge golfer was recently named on the 14-player provisional GB&I squad along with three other Irish internationals, Paula Grant (Lisburn), Annabel Wilson (Lurgan) and the leading amateur player in the world, Leona Maguire (Slieve Russell).
“I think we will have a really strong team this year,” said Olivia who is currently ranked 13th in the world.
The 40th Curtis Cup match will be played from 8-10 June next year at Quaker Ridge Golf Club in New York. GB&I will be attempting to retain the title after an 11½-8½ win over the US at Dun Laoghaire GC, Co Wicklow in 2016.
In preparation, six potential GB&I team members, including Olivia, Leona and Annabel, met up at the venue last month for a bit of reconnaissance.
“It was really nice to get out there and play the course. It means that whoever gets picked on the team has that bit of knowledge which will certainly help,” added Olivia who won 3.5 points on her Curtis Cup debut at Dun Laoghaire.
“It was a typical parkland with greens that were very quick and had plenty of slope.”
The eight-player team will be announced on April 26 next year. The two leading players on the world rankings will automatically make the team, with six players selected by the R&A’s women’s selection committee.

Given her impressive individual matchplay record – she won three out of three to help Arizona win the NCAA title last May – it would be something of a shock not to see Olivia make the team but she’s not taking anything for granted which is why she was at Carton House last week working with coach Donal Scott.
“The game is good. I’m very happy with how I played this semester, I’m just making a few changes,” added the sociology student.
“I’m working on some new stuff now to get ready for next year.”
Arizona will be defending their title without the experienced Monica Vaughan, who graduated in the summer and Linnea Strom who will turn professional early next year. It’s likely to mean that, as the top-ranked player on the team, more responsibility will fall on Olivia’s shoulders.
She added; “I see myself as a bit of a leader and I think it is a good opportunity to embrace that role.
“I love playing first in match play. It’s about getting out there and getting some early points on the board. It’s something that I thrive on a bit.
“Losing Monica and Linnea is a big hit because they are both top 10 in the world. We will have to step up as a group. We still have a really great team. Four of the squad remain from last year. It’s exciting, we’ll see what happens.”

Tom McKibbin and GolfNow make festive donation to Children’s Hospice

December 15, 2017

Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice Ambassador Tom McKibbin, NI Children’s Hospice Community Nurse Pamela Armstrong and GolfNow PR Manager Andrew Hollywood

Ulster and Ireland amateur, Tom McKibbin, dropped into Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice with a special festive gift this week.
Before jetting off to Florida, to compete in the Junior Orange Bowl in Miami and the Junior Honda Classic, Tom teamed up with tee-time marketplace leaders GolfNow to donate £700, covering the cost of THREE Specialist Community Nursing Service days as a Christmas gift to his adopted charity. (It costs hospice £225 per day to run children’s community nursing services.)
Newtownabbey-born Tom became an Ambassador for Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice last year and has since raised thousands of pounds for NI Children’s Hospice.
The 14-year-old Belfast Royal Academy student seized upon Justin Rose’s WGC-HSBC Championship win in Shanghai at the end of October and asked the winner to donate a course flag with a personal message for auction.
The unique flag raised £350 for Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice and was then matched by GolfNow’s Northern Ireland-based office.
Tom said: “I was really pleased when Justin Rose donated the signed flag for me to auction in aid of Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice and that GolfNow has matched the amount to support this great organisation.

“It means a lot to know that everyone involved has made a vital contribution to children’s hospice services.”

GolfNow International Marketing Director Andrew Hollywood said: We’re delighted to match Tom’s donation for the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice. Tom has been innovative in raising funds for vital services this year and we wish him luck over the festive period.”
Pamela Armstrong, Community Nurse Specialist at NI Children’s Hospice, said: “Tom is a wonderful Ambassador and really puts his heart into raising awareness of our services, our young patients and their families. We are very proud of him, and wish him every success in his forthcoming tournaments.”

Ulster Branch news – Reece Black claims Boys OoM; John White named Branch Chairman

December 10, 2017

Ulster Branch 2017 OoM winners (l-r)
Andrew Morris sponsor, Aaron Marshall (Lisburn), Reece Black (Hilton Templepatrick), Joshua Hill (Galgorm Castle), John McKinstry (Cairndhu) Ulster Branch Junior Convenor

East of Ireland Champion, Reece Black, was crowned Ulster Boys Order of Merit winner at the recent Ulster Branch GUI ADM.
The Hilton Templepatrick member carded a superb final round 66 to claim the East. In doing so, the 17-year-old became the youngest ever winner of the East in its 77-year history.
The U16 Order of Merit winner was Lisburn’s Aaron Marshall. Aaron won the Munster and Leinster Boys titles and also came second in the Irish Boys while Joshua Hill (Galgorm Castle) lifted the U14 award.
John White (left) a member of Co Armagh GC was elected Ulster Branch Chairman for a two-year term.  John joined Co Armagh as a juvenile and played at Senior Cup and Barton Shield level. He has served on numerous committees, is a past captain and past president of the club and is currently a trustee.
He has been involved with the Ulster Branch for some 20 years and has held the posts of Hon Treasurer and Hon Secretary. He has also been a provincial selector for some years and is a former captain of the Senior Interprovincial team winning the title in 2005 and 2006.
At national level, John is a previous convenor of the Venues and Fixtures and High Performance Committees and is currently the Ulster nominee to the GUI Board. He is also an Irish Senior selector and has acted as team manager on several occasions including a victorious European Nations (2016) and two Home International winning teams (2015 and 2017).
Norman Bennett (Holywood) was elected Hon Secretary, Alasdair Gibson (Knock) Hon Treasurer and Brian Hutchinson (Donaghadee) Hon Match and Handicapping Secretary.
Elected to the provincial council were; Jackie Graham (Castlerock), Terry Magee (Clandeboye), Tony Cassidy (Dunmurry) and David Heaney (Scrabo).
Elected to the Match and Handicap committee were; Patsy McCaffrey (Enniskillen), Billy McCaul (Greencastle), John Doran (Letterkenny), Jason Wilson (Loughgall), Michael Leonard (Portsalon) and Jeff Forde (Tandragee).


Gary McNeill and Brian McElhinney top of the pile at Portstewart

December 6, 2017

A pair of former Irish Amateur champions shared top spot at Portstewart GC in the latest round of the PGA Links Pro Trophy.
Brian McElhinney (North West) and Gary McNeill (Royal Portrush) posted rounds of one-under-par 64 on a course that was shortened to 16 holes (the second and third were closed).
McElhinney, who also won the European Championship as an amateur, raced to three-under-par after seven holes but a three-putt bogey five at the eighth left him out in two-under-27.
The Donegal golfer holed a putt from six feet at the first for a birdie, holed from four feet at the sixth and rolled in a 15-footer at the seventh. He finished short of the green at the par four 11th and failed to get up and down but that lost ground was regained at the long 14th when he chipped to gimme range.
He then lost a ball off the tee at the 16th but managed to scramble a bogey five before finishing with two pars.
Gary was a model of consistency over his opening seven holes, rattling off six pars and a birdie two at the sixth hole for a front nine of 28 but his approach to the 10th green was short and he failed to get up-and-down for par.
He hit back with birdies at the back to back par fives – 13 and 14 – but then slipped up again with a three-putt bogey at the 15th before closing out his round with three pars.
The fourth Links Trophy round, at Kirkistown Castle on December 18, with be the Christmas outing at which all players must, under fear of penalty wear a Christmas jumper.

PGA Links Trophy at Portstewart Leaderboard

PGA in Ireland team cruise to 16-shot International Team Championship success

November 26, 2017

2017 PGAs of Europe International Team Championship Winners, the PGA in Ireland – [L to R] Simon Thornton, David Higgins & Mark Staunton
Pic by Johan Hampf’

Ireland cruised to an emphatic 16-shot victory in the International Team Championship at Costa Navarino, Greece on Saturday.
Mark Staunton’s (Delgany GC) stunning bogey-free final round 64 (-7) set the seal on a superb team effort by the PGA in Ireland representatives.
“It was an excellent few days. The resort was first class and the event was well run by the PGA’s of Europe,” said Galway born Staunton.
“It is great to have the honour of representing your country and even better to be able to win. The two lads (Simon Thornton and David Higgins) played great all week and on a personal note, it was nice to finish the week off strongly.”
The International Team Championship saw 21 teams from the PGAs of Europe’s member countries battling it out over 72 holes on the Bernhard Langer designed The Dunes Course. The best two individual scores each day from the team of three counted towards the overall team score.
Ireland trailed Scotland by five shots at the close of play on day one but a second round five-under-par 66 from Thornton (Tulfarris Golf Resort) helped to turn that deficit into a two-shot lead.
“We had a great week. Everyone in the team contributed and winning by such a wide margin made it even more special,” said Simon.
“It feels great to beat the other European countries and I think it highlights the strength and depth of player we have in Ireland.”
Once ahead, Ireland put the foot down finishing day three with a six-shot advantage which they extended to a remarkable 16 shots by the end of play on day four.
“It was a great way to finish the season,” said Higgins (Waterville Links) who got Ireland off to a solid start on day one with an opening round 68 (-3).
“It is a great honour to be selected to represent your country and to win while doing it is extra special.”
This is the third time Ireland has won the ITC. The last Irish team to win the title in 2008 featured John Kelly (St Margaret’s Golf &CC), Robert Giles (Greenore) and Eamonn Brady (Clontarf).

2017 International Team Championship leaderboard

Mooney and Graham share top spot at St Patrick’s

November 24, 2017

Damien Mooney

It may not be the ideal time of year for sub-par rounds of golf but Damian Mooney and Gareth Graham belied that notion to post rounds of three-under-par 66 and share top spot at the Ping PGA Ulster Golfers’ Alliance event at St Patrick’s, Downpatrick.
Mooney (Damian Mooney Golf) had built a three-shot advantage by the eighth hole having birdied the second, third and eighth.
He drove the green for a birdie three at the second, found the green at the long third with a drive and six iron, while at the short eighth he wedged to one inch.
However, the charge was halted when he drove into trees leading to a bogey five at the ninth to turn in two-under-par 33.
Damian’s drive for success was recharged with a 25-foot birdie putt at the short 11th, after an eight iron approach to the green, but another wayward drive into trees at the 13th cost him another stroke.  That was offset when he chipped to a foot for a birdie three at 16 and with a par/par finish, he was back in 33 for his 66.

Gareth Graham

Graham (Groomsport DR) birdied the long third after a drive and four iron to 20 feet and picked up another shot at the the par-four sixth but wiped out the advantages when he visited the trees, followed by the sand and then three-putted the seventh for a double-bogey six.
A chip and putt birdie three at the 10th, followed by a four-foot birdie on 13 and a six-footer at the next got Graham to three under but after duffing a wedge and taking three to get down he pencilled in bogey five at 17. Still, the Groomsport pro finished strongly with an eight iron to 10 feet for a birdie two at the last as he tied with Mooney.

Ping PGA Ulster Golfers’ Alliance at St Patrick’s
Professionals: 66 (-3) – D Mooney (Damian Mooney Golf), G Graham (Groomsport DR).
69 – P Farrell (Laganview Golf Centre).
70 – C Carvill (Belvoir Pk), R Whitford (Knock).
71 – G Wardlow (Spa), C Lyle (Donaghadee).

Overall Nett, 43 pts – S Goldthorpe 16 (Blackwood).
Category 1 (8&U): 42 pts – M McCrory 6 (Clandeboye); 42 – J Johnston 7 (Belvoir Pk)
Category (9-14): 38 pts – G Reilly 9 (St Patrick’s); 38 -N Gallagher 10 (Hilton Templepatrick)
Category (14+), 42 pts – S McKillop 16 (Portstewart); 39 – L Hale 21 (Shandon Pk).
Gross, 35 pts – I Smyth 4 (Clandeboye).
Team: 93 pts – Pro D Mooney (Damian Mooney Golf) with N Gallagher 10 (Hilton Templepatrick, R Clarke 15 (Dunmurry) & A Hynds 8 (Dunmurry).

With thanks to Tony McGee