Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Narin and Portnoo Golf Club- The One that Got Away

In a recent post, I told of Connor Mallon accepting the position of Head Golf Professional at Narin and Portnoo Golf Club in County Donegal, Ireland. Connor is a well deserving guy who we wish well in his new position. What I did not know was that Narin and Portnoo apparently is a very good golf course. We came close to this course in 2003 when we played the great little nine hole course Cruit Island which is near the Donegal Airport at Carrickfin. We were not far from this course in July of 2008 when we drove from Donegal to Ballyliffin.

If we had just turned west at Donegal we would have gone through the picturesque little fishing village of Killybegs and then a short drive would have gotten us to Narin and Portnoo. A good website is a great advertisement for a good golf course. This is how I found Cruit Island in 2003. Now Narin and Portnoo has invested in a website that is first class and gives great photos of the course. Also from the size of the purse paid in their Pro-Am event played a month before the Ballyliffin Pro-Am this is quite a popular place. The picture above is from Narin and Portnoo #10. For more great photos of every hole click on the link below.

Check it out at
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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Irish Professional Golfers - Meet them by Playing in Pro-Ams on Your Ireland Golf Trip

In 2001 (after our first small group visited in 1999), we took our first large group of golfers to the annual Ballyliffin Pro-Am tournament in Ireland. We had entered three teams into the tournament with twelve amateur golfers, which with each team’s pro member made four to a group. Proper application had been made and fees paid to the Irish Region PGA office in Dundalk and we were all set for the tournament, or so we thought. As one of our teams arrived at the tee, they discovered that their Pro, Geoff Bleakley, from Balmoral Golf Club in Belfast had brought his own team with him without notifying the PGA office. This was a catastrophe for the three members of our group who had come a long way to participate in this tournament. Officials put their heads together and quickly came up with a plan. A call was made to Buncrana, a town just twenty minutes from the club. It seems a young man by the name of Connor Mallon who lived in Buncrana was home for a visit after a stint on a mini-tour golf circuit in the United States. As our group stood by the tee, Connor made a fast trip up to Ballyliffin. Connor was a great golfer, a better golfer than the one who had been assigned to the team. Their assigned Pro, Geoff Bleakley, was embarrassed for the trouble he had caused. When he returned on Sunday for the second day of the tournament, he brought with him gifts out of his golf shop at Balmoral for each of our members who had been displaced. The next year Geoff served as President of the PGA Professionals in Ireland and happened also to be the assigned Pro for my group at the Ballyliffin Tournament. Connor Mallon became a great friend to our group. The next year Connor was working as assistant Pro at Ballyliffin and continued working there off and on for several years up until 2008. His team always fared well in the tournament events due to his contribution. In 2008 Connor accepted an offer to become head Golf Professional at Narin and Portnoo Golf Club which sits near the villages of Narin and Portnoo in the south of County Donegal. With his personality and golf game, they could not have made a better choice.

In Ireland, aspiring club golf professionals are not only allowed, but encouraged, to participate in the Pro-Am events held at different golf clubs each spring and summer weekend. Some of these are one day events but most are two day tournaments such as are held At Ballyliffin Golf Club over their two links courses, The Old Links and Glashedy Links. In this system, young golf pros can hone their skills in a tournament event on a regular basis giving them the exposure it takes to improve to the level that is required to make it on the European PGA Tour Circuit. They can also win substantial sums of money in these tournaments if they win or finish high enough in the standings. Ballyliffin due to its possessing two great championship courses has the largest Pro-Am tournament in all of Europe with a total of 104 teams entered each year. The tournament has been over subscribed in each of the last several years that it has been held. This event was begun in 1995 and our group first played in the tournament in 1999.

In addition to Connor Mallon, we have been fortunate to meet numerous young aspiring pros at the Ballyliffin Pro-Am event. For several years a favorite has been Seamus Clinton, a very nice young man from Letterkenny and Portsalon where he grew up in a house adjacent to one of the fairways at Portsalon Golf Club. Portsalon is a very difficult links style course that sits on the opposite shore of the Lough Swilley across from the Inishowen Peninsula where Ballyliffin is located. The amateur prizes, in these tournaments, are always some form of Irish crystal. Teams led by Seamus Clinton have won crystal at least twice since we have participated.

This year Seamus was again a member of one of our teams. Our other pros were Simon Thornton playing out of Royal County Down, Ian St John playing out of Nenagh, and Eddie Tracey playing out of Ballina. Eddie Tracey and Simon Thornton tied for first place in the standings for individual pro scores, each shooting seven under par over the two days. Eddie Tracey shot a miraculous seven under par the first day and hung on at level par for the second day to gain a tie. Each of them along with Philip Walton, a former European Ryder Cup member, and Michael Collins won a total of 3,250 GB Pounds Sterling as they finished in a four way tie.

The amount of their winnings perked my interest so I made a visit to the Irish Region PGA website to see how our favorite pros have fared in other tournaments this year. Last year Connor Mallon and Seamus Clinton finished in a tie for first place in the Cairndhu Golf Club Pro-Am event which is held the week following the Ballyliffin tournament.

Here are some winnings for these guys this year:

Narin & Portnoo Pro-Am - 28th – 29th June 2008
Simon Thornton – Tied 7th - 1,000 GBP
John Dolan – (Ballyliffin Pro) Tied 14th - 670 GBP
Seamus Clinton - Tied 16th - 554 GBP
Connor Mallon - Tied 21st - 298 GBP
Edward Tracey - Tied 21st - 298 GBP

Dunfanaghy Pro-Am – 19th – 20th July 2008
John Dolan - Tied 10th - 580 GBP
Connor Mallon Tied 10th - 580 GBP
Ian St John 46th - -0-

Ballyliffin Pro-Am – 26th – 27th July 2008
Simon Thornton Tied 1st - 3,250 GBP
Eddie Tracey Tied 1st - 3,250 GBP
Francis Howley (former Pro Ballyliffin) 5th - 1,500 GBP
John Dolan 8th - 875 GBP
Connor Mallon Tied 20th - 362 GBP
Brendan McDermott 50th - 44 GBP
Seamus Clinton Tied 55th - -0-

Cairndhu Pro-Am – 31st July – 1st August 2008
Connor Mallon Tied 6th 570 GBP
Brendan McDermott Tied 8th 447 GBP
Seamus Clinton Tied 22nd 155 GBP

Navan Pro-Am 8th August 2008
Brendan McDermott (previous pro) Tied 4th 667 GBP
Simon Thornton Tied 7th 490 GBP

Cork Pro-Am – 11th August 2008
Brendan McDermott Tied 2nd 1,200 GBP
Eddie Tracey Tied 4th 828 GBP
Ian St John Tied 17th 380 GBP
Seamus Clinton Tied 29th -0-

Fred Daly Pro-Am Balmoral GC 14th August 2008
Brendan McDermott Tied 10th 212 GBP
Seamus Clinton Tied 14th 160 GBP

Kilkea Castle Pro-Am 15th August, 2008
Seamus Clinton Tied 10th 504 GBP

AA Business Ins. Cup 20th -21st August 2008 Grenore Golf ClubSimon Thornton * Tied 2nd 1,050 GBP
Eddie Tracey Tied 19th 162 GBP

Greystones Pro-Am 25th August 2008
Seamus Clinton ** Tied 10th 400 GBP
Simon Thornton Tied 10th 400 GBP

* Simon Thornton finished tied for first at Grenore but lost in a shoot out to tie for second.

** Seamus Clinton seems to be following these events full time. He gives lessons at a driving range in Letterkenny but I hardly see where he has time to do any teaching.
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