A successful amalgamation of two Kerry golf clubs came to fruition in glorious sunshine in Killorglin on Saturday afternoon as Kerry football star David Clifford drove a ceremonial ball down the fairway to declare The Maine Valley Members Golf Club officially open.
He was joined by fellow Kerry players, Peter Crowley, Shane Enright and by his brother Paudie Clifford and club officials.
As Much of a Secret as Possible
It was an occasion that would have drawn hundreds of people to the course but, for obvious reasons, the organisers kept the occasion as much of a secret as they could.
They went against all instincts and even declined to invite people to the occasion for the sake of the health of those who might turn up.
Early 2020 and Bad News
The first few months of 2020 brought nothing but bad news for golf clubs in Kerry and Cork.
Seriously dwindling memberships, final farewells and the sounds of closing gates dominated the landscape throughout the bordering counties in the early parts of this extraordinary year.
Bad weather and unplayable courses in the very early months paled into insignificance with what was to follow as March blew in.
Survival Blown Beyond Reach
Whatever chance a golf club had of surviving was blown beyond expectation and reach as the news of the spread of Covid-19 began to dawn and impose difference as an everyday occurrence.
Even so, and in spite of the news of the closure and lock-down of everything that moved, there were behind-the-scenes moves between representatives of the just closed Killorglin Golf Club and refugees from the mortally wounded Castleisland Members Golf Club.
Club Members Canvassed
Former members of both clubs were canvassed for their opinions and asked for indications of support.
That was forthcoming to the extent that a team of negotiators from Killorglin and Castleisland became more engaged with the possibilities and the positivity from the feedback they received.
An encouraging follow-up, indicator of support with a €100 per head vote of confidence sealed the issue for both clubs by mid-May.
Maine Valley Golf Club – A Reality
Then, an interim committee was formed to carry the project farther and the Maine Valley Members Golf Club became a reality.
The interim committee is comprised of: Dermot Kelly, Jimmy Foley, Pat Goulding, Brendan Quirke, Kevin Jones, Mary Ann Downes, Eamon Feeley and Francis Fitzgerald.
As spokes-people, Jimmy Foley represented the Killorglin side and Maryann Downes spoke for the Castleisland interest in the project – but, both were in tune with the good news which emerged at the time.
Thanks to Billy Dodd, Pat and Neily
“A number of people from both Killorglin and Castleisland have worked tirelessly to ensure that players from both areas, who enjoy the game of golf, can have a wonderful home in which to enjoy the game we love.
“We must sincerely thank Billy Dodd for making his beautiful facility available to us. A huge thank you to Pat and Neily also for voluntarily keeping the course maintained to a very high standard during the past number of weeks,” according to a statement issued in May when things were really looking up for the future of the course.
Grounds Men Kept the Faith
That the ground staff of the Killorglin course volunteered to keep it maintained, from the time the gates closed in March, spoke volumes for the determination in the locality to secure the future of the impressive facility.
Back in May and still under lock-down, Jimmy Foley revealed that there were 250 expressions of interest and that the numbers were still coming in and he was hopeful that this number would rise.
Speaking this week, Jimmy delightedly divulged that the Maine Valley Golf Club membership stands at a healthy 380 – with enquiries still coming in.
Opening Day Justified the Effort
“There’s a great buzz about the place at present and Saturday’s opening day, small and all as it had to be, justified all the work that went into keeping the place going since the beginning of the year,” said Jimmy.
The 380 membership figure breaks down between juniors, a ladies club and a men’s club. The ladies club consists of 62 from Killorglin and district and 33 from the former Castleisland club.
Castleisland has also contributed 50 men to the ranks of the new amalgamated club with more making enquiries and joining as they hear about the facilities on the course of the banks of the Laune.