SHORT HISTORY OF BALLYBOFEY & STRANORLAR GOLF.
Ballybofey and Stranorlar Golf Club was founded on a shoe string budget of £1,000.00 in 1957 and this year celebrates its 50th Anniversary.
The Club has its origins back in 1956, when a few local golfing enthusiasts who played on neighbouring courses, felt the Finn Valley should have its own club. John Joe Kennedy, Paddy Murphy and Ivan Kee called a meeting of interested parties for New Years Day, 1957. The club was born when 26 people attended at the Butt Hall and agreed to form a new Golf Club.
An inaugural general meeting was held on 22nd January, 1957. The 1st President was Willie Raitt (General Merchant) who served as President for the following 10 years. John Joe Kennedy (Contractor) was the 1st Captain serving for 3 years. Paddy Brennan (Teacher) and Ivan Kee (Auctioneer) were joint secretaries and the Treasurer was Paddy Gallagher the manager of the local branch of the Hibernian Bank. The following Officers and Council were elected and stayed in power for 3 years.
President: W.H. Raitt
Vice President: J. McClay
Chairman/Captain J.J. Kennedy
Treasurer: P. Gallagher
Joint Secretaries: P.J. Brennan
Competition Secretary: L O. McMenamin
P.J. Murphy M. McMenamin E. McMullin
P. Carr J. Collum J. McMenamin
J. McDermott P. McGonagle T. Shanahan
P. McGonagle P.J. Brennan Ivan Kee
P. Carr J. O’Hara E. McDevitt
Funding of £500.00 was raised through bonds to be repaid on a specified date, a further £500.00 was given in the form of an interest free loan by Harry Kee of Kee’s Hotel. From that time until the nineties the club has raised all monies required to bring the course and clubhouse up to modern standards without any assistance from outside sources.
In 1957, 32 acres of land was made available by Eunan McMullin and Larry Coyle for a nine hole course at a nominal rent. The club was given an option to buy the land later at a fixed price of £1,500.00.
The Club Council called in Ted Pope, professional at the City of Derry Club, and in consultation with the local Committee the first 9-hole layout was agreed. Around 30 volunteers spent their spare time in that first year helping to clear the site. It is of interest to note that the stones cleared off the site were purchased by the Donegal County Council at the end of the first year for £68. Among those who provided voluntary work together with many of the members were Joe McMenamin (tractors), Ted O’Kane (tractors) Willie and John Roulston (local farmers) Tom Pat Kinder, Ted McGarrigle, Alexander McClay, Leonard Kilpatrick, Ernest Fairman, James Morrow, Joe Russell and J.J. Reid.
The course was opened for play in June, 1958 with the first trophy being presented by local jeweller Billy Carroll. In the absence of a clubhouse he made the presentation from the back of a tractor. The first Captain’s Day
was run as a foursomes in August, 1958, when 26 pairs played, 17 of which were mixed. The winners were brother and sister Paddy Carr and Maeve McMenamin. That same year saw the first hole in one achieved by Andy Lambe at the second hole.
The next step was the purchase for £65.00 of the old wooden and corrugated iron clubhouse of the Strabane Club at Carricklee. George McNulty, the local builder (with the help of teenage nephews Dessie and Eamon Foy who have since become members of the club), took great pride in dismantling and re-erecting the Clubhouse in Stranorlar and it served the club well in those formative years. Tom Shanahan, now in Cahir, bar convenor and business advisor to the Council proved to be the driving force in organising and raising finance in the early years and was mainly responsible for the successful development of the club. Bazaars and dances in the Butt Hall were organised and promoted by him which raised the essential finances to keep the club afloat. He organised a very successful concert in the Butt Hall - Adam Faith who was then “Top of the Pops” created great excitement among the Donegal teenagers. It is interesting to remember that all members of the original Council, with others, had each to put a sheep on the land to make profit from the production of lambs. John Joe Kennedy, the Captain having watched the sheep being delivered (with the ram prominent in its actions) stated at the Council meeting the following March when there was no sign of any
“I knew that ram was nothing but a showoff” However, his fears were dispelled when a fine flock of lambs emerged later.
When the bar licence was granted, the clubhouse became a popular venue for bridge, whist and other social functions. The clubhouse was the place to be on Sunday mornings after services where the conversation was lively and many a local story was told. Singsongs were regular occurrences and generally started at anytime of day or night. Who will forget Dr. John O’Brien’s rendition of the “Buggy Buggy Boo” Joe Coughlan’s “Some Enchanted Evening” Percy Kee’s “Six miles to Brockagh from Ballybofey” and many other notable contributions too numerous to mention.
In 1960 the option to purchase the land was taken up. In 1964 the club set up a Friday night bingo session in the Butt Hall to raise funds and this continued for about twenty years. The money raised allowed the club to purchase more land and to gradually replace the original corrugated iron clubhouse. A lot is owed to the members who gave up Friday nights throughout the years to organise and steward the bingo sessions. Among them were Harry McNulty (organiser) Seamus McNamee, Michael Timoney, Tom Shanahan, Matt McMenamin, Paddy Carr, Kieran Cunnane, Jimmy McGlinchey, Tony Gallinagh, Michael O’Flanagan, Jack Willoughby, Drew Brogan, Charlie Moore, Ted McGarrigle, Percy Kee Norman O’Haire, Jos McMenamin and Dan Reid.
All the hard work in the sixties came to fruition when the course was extended and the clubhouse reconstructed. The land, where the present 9th hole and 1st tee is located, was bought from Larry Coyle and this was followed by the erection of a new bar and locker rooms on part of the site of the original club house. In 1976 a further 26 acres was purchased from Larry Coyle, 10 acres from the Health Board behind St. Joseph’s hospital and a further 5 acres from Ernest Fairman. Following consultation with Eddie Hackett (course advisor) it was agreed to extend the course to 18 holes. A layout was agreed and a committee formed with Patsy McGonagle in charge of the work to be carried out. The new 9 holes was eventually played in 1978 and was officially opened in June, 1982 by Fred Perry, President of the G.U.I. with Phil Roddy as club captain. Since then improvements continue to be made to the course with the employment of experienced workers and the purchase of essential machinery. The club owes a great deal to the various Green Convenors over the years, starting with George Kee, Sean Young, Matt McMenamin, Charlie Moore, Turlough McDyer, George McNeill, Conor McMenamin, Michael Carr, Martin Dillon and Paul Trayers and to greenkeepers George Leeper, Seamus McNulty and Leo McGlinchey whose employment has spanned the entire 50 years. The course is now one of the best parkland courses in the country.
The club continued to grow and in 1994 it was decided by the members at an EGM to build a new clubhouse on the site of the original giving more space and a first floor view over parts of the course. This work was carried out by the local Architects, Paddy Carr and son Tony with building contractors Seamus Quinn Construction. The overall cost of this project was in excess of £600,000.00 Bord Failte giving a grant of £90,000.00.
In 1996, the captain Mr. Pete Byrne welcomed the President of the G.U.I. Mr. Eamonn Curran, to perform the opening ceremony of the new clubhouse which has been much appreciated by the members since. That year also saw the famine graveyard -- which is within the curtilage of the course -- having its boundary walls rebuilt, proper gates installed and generally tidied up. A plaque was erected to commemorate the victims under the supervision of the Captain and his Greens Convenor, Michael Carr.
The Donegal Inter Club League was founded in 1961. Fr. A. McElwee, Glenties and Matt McMenamin with Joe Collum both founder members of the club were instrumental in organising the competition which has proved to be a great success ever since. The club won the competition 7 times in the early years and again in 1992 and 1999. The Donegal County Competitions increased to 5 over the years and the club has won all of them at some stage. The Competitions are:
Donegal Inter Club League - 9 times winners
Donegal Scratch Club - Winners 1993, ’94 ’95 ’96 & 2006
Donegal Minor League - Winners 1991 & 2000
Donegal Seniors Club League - Winners 2005 & 2006
Donegal Youths Competition - Finalists in 2007
It was the late 70’s before the club started to play in Ulster competitions and many successes were achieved since then.
In 1980 the club won the Ulster section of the Pierce Purcell Shield under the captaincy of J.W. McNulty. Unfortunately due to food poisoning at Lahinch they were knocked out of the All Ireland semi-final when everyone felt the young Team was capable of winning the title. The Pierce Purcell team won the Ulster Title again in 1995 under the captaincy of Allister Henderson and went on to the All Ireland Finals in Portstewart where having beaten Kanturk in the semi-finals they lost the final to the St. Anne’s team from Dublin.
In 1993 and 1994 the club won the Ulster section of The Mixed Foursomes and although beaten in the All Ireland semi-final in 1993 in Galway, they went on to win the All Ireland title in 1994 at Masserene beating Waterford and Co. Sligo in the semi-final and final. Unfortunately the early tradition and popularity of the mixed foursomes has all but been lost in the club.
The 1994 Team Panel was Terry Farrell (Captain), Enda McMenamin, Ann Duffy, John McCaughan, Sheila Rooney, Sean Ewing, Mary O’Flanagan, Conor McMenamin, Ann McGranaghan, Michael Carr, Eileen Boyce, Paddy Cleary, Kathleen McGowan, Seamus Patton and Maeve McNulty.
Another big success was achieved by the Club in the Ulster Cup Competition. In 1995 the club was narrowly beaten by Masserene in the semi-final. In a tough competition in 1996 the club claimed their first Ulster Cup title by beating Ballyclare on the very last hole of the final. The victory was celebrated in the club with a special function hosted by Pete Byrne, the Club Captain.
The team panel was Phil Roddy (Captain) John McCaughan, James McAllister, Charlie Lapsley, Eddie Gallagher, Paddy Cleary, Alex Harkin, Martin Dillon, Paddy Carr, Michael Hynes, Drew Duncan, James Rodgers.
The Youth Team won the Donaghadee Youth Tournament in 2001 and the team with Paul Trayers as club captain was Thomas Grindel, James McNulty, Derek McNeill, Mark Hynes and Joseph McMenamin.
The Club has been close to success in various other Ulster competitions.
Mixed Foursomes Ulster Winners in 1993 and 1994
All Ireland Winners in 1994
Ulster Finalists on three further occasions
Pierce Purcell Ulster Winners in 1980 and 1985
All Ireland semi-finalists in 1980 and finalists in 1995.
Jimmy Bruen Ulster Semi-finalists on several occasions.
Junior Cup Often qualified but beaten in Match Play stages.
Senior Cup Often qualified but beaten in Match Play stages.
Barton Shield Ulster semi-finalists in 1988
Jimmy Carroll Trophy All Ireland Winners 2006
Joe Carr Trophy Ulster Finalists 2007
Fred Dally Trophy (Juniors) Ulster Finalists 2007
Many local members of the club have come to prominence - the greatest successes have been achieved by Enda McMenamin, Daragh McGowan and Joanne O’Haire.
Enda is well known nationally and has brought honour to the Club by his selection as an Interprovincial player for Ulster on many occasions and as an Irish International in 1981 and 1982. He qualified for a professional tournament players card but returned to amateur ranks after one year. Many felt that he didn’t give himself enough time to get established and his successes over the years since would indicate this. He was runner up on two occasions in the West of Ireland Championship, once in the Irish Close Championship and has won many Scratch Cups. He still plays to a scratch/+1 handicap.
Daragh McGowan has also achieved international honours. She played for her country in 2002 and is still an Interprovincial player for Connaught. Her continuing talent is demonstrated by winning the Captain’s Prizes in ’06 and ’07 and now plays off a handicap of 3.
Joanne O’Haire also achieved interprovincial honours with Ulster.
The ladies branch has always been very active in the Club and in the early years provided the catering for all the big days which was essential when the Club was small. The ladies branch has developed a formidable reputation in representing the Club in various team events and have had many successes including:
Maura O’Donnell Trophy: Winners in ’94, ’95, ’95, ’99, ’04, ’05, & ’06
North West League: Winners in ’87, ‘’88 & ‘03
Donegal Shield: Winners in ’87 & ‘91
Ulster ‘C’ Team: Winners in ’89 & ‘93
Ulster Bank 4-Ball: Ulster Winners in ’97 (All Ireland semi-finals)
Ulster Inter Team: Winners in ‘02
Menoloy Teams: Ulster Winners in ’05 & ’06 (All Ireland semi-finals)
Huzzar Foursomes Ulster Winners in ‘88
Over the years there have been many fine score cards and it is of interest to note that the record for the nine hole course was set in 1977 by Joe McMenamin, Senior when he returned a 64 in the Captain’s Prize which also included a hole in one. The 18 hole record of 63 was set by Enda McMenamin which unfortunately is not properly recorded.
The original ladies course record was set by Wendy Patterson with a fine 71 but it has been bettered over the years by Joanne O’Haire and then Darragh McGowan who set a record 66 in the Captain’s prize Competition of 2006. Mrs. Maura O’Donnell (sister of Eunan McMullin) on whose family land part of the course is set was a member in the early years. She went on to achieve International status as well as becoming Captain of the British and Irish Curtis Cup Team against the U.S.A. which was a great honour in the fiftieth anniversary of the competition.
It is significant to note that the Club has never had any restrictions on playing times for ladies although associate membership was the norm at the time. Full membership was made available when agreement was reached between the G.U.I. and I.L.G.U.
The youth development programme has mushroomed in recent years and
great credit is due to Anna Dillon, Michael O’Flanagan, Anne McAllister,
Pat McCaughan, Paddy Cleary, Iggy Larkin, John McGettigan and others for the fine crop of young players who are now representing the Club in the Fred Daly and other competitions.
Another of the clubs achievements is in its Youth development programme which has produced 2 qualified professional golfers in Eamon O’Flanagan and Joanne O’Haire and we wish them every success in the future.
The stewards over the years have played an important role in the social development of the club. In the initial years there were temporary people with Ms. M. Martin being the first. In 1964 Mrs. Dympna Duncan took over the job and for the next 20 years gave great service to the club. She became lady captain in 1984. Barney and Kathleen Duffy succeeded her in the mid eighties and were very popular and congenial hosts for members and visitors until they retired in 1997. They certainly raised the profile of the Club over this period. Since then various people were appointed and served the club well including Thomas & Ruth McNamee, Sean & Dolores Devenny, Ronan Dillon and Mary McHugh.
Over the years many stories are told about happenings at the Club and the list of characters is endless. Original member Tom Pat Kinder at the removal stones, Ambrose Friel for his comments at the bar and objections to non paid-up members, Michael Timoney for his exaggerated stories, Rosie Hannigan for her comments from the hedge (none of you can do it like Enda) Charlie Moore for his green sweaters, Ted O’Kane for his knowledge of all that was going on in the club.
Five of the founder members are still with us.
Paddy Murphy, past Captain and President, who was one of the signatories of the original letter and has played many important roles in the development of the club.
Joe McMenamin, past Captain and President, who put so much effort into the Club and achieved many successes in Club and Inter County competitions. Although in his late thirties when he took up golf, he achieved a handicap of 4 for many years.
Tom Shanahan, past Captain, who left Ballybofey in 1966 but never lost touch with the Club and had such a huge input in the early years
Paddy Carr, past Captain and President, who still plays golf regularly and has filled most of the official positions in the Club over his 40 years of service on the Council.
Eunan McMullin, past Captain and President, who with Larry Coyle made land available to the Club in 1957 for which the members should be forever indebted.
The club has been rewarded with dedicated Captains each leaving their own mark on the club in their year of office. It was a great occasion at the 25th Anniversary that all the Captains and most of the lady captains were alive and were gathered together by Tony Gallinagh, Phil Roddy, Ailish Gallinagh and Siobhan Brady for historic photographs. Unfortunately this is not possible for the 50th Anniversary but we hope many will be able to turn up for the celebration. Currently a collection of photographs of events down the years is being assembled by Drew Brogan. The members wish the present captains James McAllister and Eileen Boyce well in their year of office and congratulate them on their contribution to the club.
And so to the next fifty years, the omens are good as people continue to enjoy the wonderful game of golf. The club should feel proud of its development to-date and that its future looks secure in the talent being shown by children of its established members. Evidence of this is apparent in the successful Fred Daly team of 2007 which has 3 members of the Reilly family on its panel and in the Donegal Youths Team which reached the final of the competition.
The panel for the Fred Daly Team under the Captaincy of John McCaughan, Jnr. was James Curry, Bryan Reilly, Gareth Reynolds, Mark Reilly, Gavin Reilly, Martin O’Reilly, Matthew McGowan, Alan Catterson, Johnny Dunleavy.
The panel for the Youths under 16 Team under the management of Ann McAllister was Gareth Reynolds (Captain), Gavin Reilly, Shea Hannigan,
Matthew McGowan, Seamus Begley, Bari Duncan, Rory Dunleavy, Martin O’Reilly.
This augurs well for the future of the club _____ Long may it continue
by Paddy Carr