Notes on the Foundation and Early History of Kilkenny Golf Club.
1. Kilkenny Golf Club was formally opened on April 2nd 1896 by Mr E Smithwick, J.P. at Barrett's Hill, later known as Bishop's Demesne, (Notice in Kilkenny Journal of April 4th 1896).
2. The members attended the first Annual General Meeting in the Victoria Hotel on Monday Dec 7th 1896. Mr Hudson , honorary treasurer reported a credit balance of £10, 3s, 1d, and was commended by Mr Catlin for his prudent financial management. The officers were agreed without the need for a ballot and were recorded as follows:
Chairman: Mr W.H.Catlin
President: Marquis of Ormonde
Vice Presidents: Rev G.W.Balle L.L.B., Principal Kilkenny College, Mr E. Smithwick J.P., & Mr L.J. Power J.P.,
Captain: Mr James Smithwick
Hon. Sec/Hon. Treasurer: Mr G.M. Hudson
Committee: A Committee of seven were elected by ballot: Messrs Harrison, Pitt & Kenealy were appointed as scrutineers, and following a ballot the following gentlemen were elected as the committee for the incoming year: Mr Johnstone, Mr Davis, Mr Harrison, Mr Spillane, MrCatlin, Mr Shiels, Mr Jordan.
The second monthly competition was held on December 26th 1896 and the Kilkenny Journal of Dec 30th 1896 recorded that Mr W. H. Jordan and Mr J Harrison tied for first place. At this time Kilkenny boasted 47 members and their only regret was the shortage of Lady golfers. The Club progressed smoothly through the remainder of the 19th century with the benevolent influence of the Smithwick's family constantly evident.
3. In 1901 the Club moved to Richview, Castlecomer Road, and Messrs J.J. O'Connell, J MacDonald, and A.M. Burden were prominent among the Officers/Committee members at this time. The shortage of Lady members was quickly addressed and the Kilkenny People of April 5th 1902 reported that the ladies played a competition over nine holes at the Easter weekend. The winner of this competition was Miss F. Hackett (18) 52, followed by Mrs Hackett, Miss A Sullivan, Miss Sullivan, Miss Harrison, Miss Neville, and Miss F. McDermott. Also a mixed foursome competition over 18 holes resulted in a triumph for J.J. O'Connell and Miss F. Hackett whose 84 net was too good for A.M. Burden and Miss A. Sullivan. Play continued here until 1905 when the Course was relocated to Garranacreen, Hebron Road, adjacent to the present Nowlan Park G.A.A. Ground.
4. Mr J.J. O'Connell was honorary secretary during these years and other Officers/Committee members included Messrs James Smithwick, Richard Duggan, Dr J.B. Hackett, Dr Louis Buggy, Michael Buggy, John A. Sullivan, Daniel Kerwick, and John Todd. Here golf play was restricted to winter months and the land reverted to agricultural use for the Summer/Harvest period. The last event of the year was played on Easter Monday. The nine hole links was reported to be “flat but interesting and very well bunkered”. The game was played over hedges and stone walls, and Miss Maher's residence was used as the Club House.=
5. The Club then moved to Kilcreene in late 1908 and the new Links at Kilcreene was officially opened by the Marchioness of Ormonde before a distinguished gathering on Nov 14th 1908. Kilcreene was a big improvement in terms of Course Layout, condition of Greens and overall course maintenance. It was splendidly bunkered having been laid out by Mr Cecil Barcroft who was a well known player of this period. Although less than one year in existence the Course received a very favourable report in the Golfing Notes of the Irish Times of August 21st 1909.
6. Kilkenny Golf Club then became affiliated to the Golfing Union of Ireland in June 1910.. In September 1910, there was a significant development with the appointment of the first professional. He was Mr D. McDermott of Malahide, and the Kilkenny People informed it's readers - inter alia.... “he comes with an excellent reputation for making and repairing clubs, and particularly for ability in teaching the game”
Mr J.J. O'Connell was still Honorary Secretary until about 1913 when his work took him away from Kilkenny and he was succeeded by Mercier Jones as Honorary Secretary who in-turn was succeeded by Mr C. Davis. Around 1914 Rev R. Birmingham became Hon. Secretary. Very difficult economic times prevailed during W.W.1 years but owing to the generous assistance of the then Guarantors – Messrs James Harte, Richard Duggan and Richard Smithwick the Club managed to keep going.. About 1915 Daniel Stapleton was appointed Hon. Secretary and in 1919 John O'Sullivan succeeded him.
7. Although Kilcreene was very well maintained, golf play was still restricted to the drier months of the year and consequently the Club continued in their efforts to procure a more suitable location to enable golf to be played continuously throughout the year. Kilkenny golf enthusiasts were therefore delighted to read of the successful procurement of the present site at Newtown in the Kilkenny People of March 14th 1923. The AGM of May 1923 was advised by Mr R Duggan, Chairman, of this wonderful news and he also confirmed that the new nine hole course would be completed and available to members by 1924. The new Course was formally opened on Thursday May 20th 1924 by Right Rev. G. Day, Bishop of Ossory. Mr G. C. Clery was appointed Hon. Secretary and was succeeded by Mr W. Connor who fulfilled the dual roles of Hon. Secretary and Honorary Treasurer until 1931 when he was succeeded by Mr David De Loughry. The new nine holes were generally located around the present 12th , 13th , 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th .
8. The golf course was extended to 18 Holes between 1936 and 1938 and the new 18 hole Course opened during the Captaincy of Mr Richard Duggan in 1938.
9. Land conveyance in 1947 registered the transfer to ownership of Kilkenny Golf Club of 59 acres 3 roods and 5.5 perches. This land encompasses the present 6th, 7th, 8th 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th holes and part of the 5th Hole. Also in the same year the lease for land adjacent to Newtown Pavilion ( 4A, 2R, 4P.) was terminated.
10. From 1924 to 1962 a combination of the old O'Connor residence and Newtown Manor provided the Clubhouse accommodation, however in 1960 the committee agreed to proceed with the design and construction of a new Clubhouse, which was completed and opened in 1962 under the direction and leadership of Tom Mahon for a total cost of £11,000 ( 5,555 square feet - designed by Mr T. Mahon.). Radical changes to the Course Layout were implemented in parallel with the construction of the new Clubhouse. The old 8th became the new First, played in reverse and the old 7th became the new Second. The new Course was opened for play before the Clubhouse was officially opened in June 1962.
11. The Clubhouse was extended during the captaincy of the late Comdt. Eamon Goulding in 1980/1981. A further major extension and remedial works/alterations and revised layout was initiated during the captaincy of Mr Gus Tobin in 1989 and completed in 1990 in Michael Barry's captaincy. In 1994 during the captaincy of Joe Nolan an additional twenty five acres adjoining the course was purchased, and a programme of major improvements to the Golf Course was planned and successfully implemented in the subsequent years, including the introduction of “sand based” greens to all holes, new Tee Box's, new bunkers and revisions to fairway layouts.
12. The 1990's also saw Kilkenny member Liam Reidy become President of the Golfing Union of Ireland in 1992. Liam, who had previously presided as Chairman of the Leinster Branch of G.U.I. from 1987 to 1991 was an “all-round sportsman” - with many successes in both hurling and golf. Liam won a Leinster minor medal with the county and three county senior titles with Eire Og. He won four senior Leinster Championships with Kilkenny in 1945, 1946, 1947, and 1950, but perhaps his greatest hurling success came in 1947 when he helped the county to win All-Ireland honours. On retiring from hurling Liam joined Kilkenny Golf Club in 1951 and within weeks was successful in winning the Captain's prize. He continued to excel at golf and included in many of his successes was the winning of the Waterford Glass Trophy in 1957 and then in 1966 he joined the elite to have figured in two successful Barton Cup teams. Liam brought great ability, style and integrity to all of the offices he held and was the obvious choice to emerge as Chairman of the Centenary Committee in 1996.
13. Centenary Year 1996. The Centenary commemorative events and celebrations were both uplifting and memorable and their success was largely attributable to the foresight of the Club in creating a dedicated Centenary Committee in 1994. L. Reidy presided as Chairman and was ably assisted by the following committee members; E. Goulding, C. Power, A. Tobin, P. Fennelly, J.D. Murphy, J. Nolan, M. Gibbons, R. Cody, Mrs M Barry, Mrs J. Duggan (Lady Captain), J. Teehan ( Captain), Ms M Prendergast ( Secretary),
14. Representative Honours: Local members Gary Murphy and Paraic O'Rourke both represented Ireland as senior internationals. Paraic made his international début alongside Ronan Raferty and Philip Walton and continued to play international golf for more than thirty events.
Gary turned professional in 1995 and has enjoyed continuous success on the professional tour all over the world for seventeen years. Gary won the 2005 Azores Open and had his best finish in the British Open in 2003, the week after a top five finish in the Scottish Open. Since retiring from the Tour, Gary continues his interest in Golf as an analyst for both Setanta and Sky and provides a very informative insight to the professional game for viewers
Ladies senior internationals include Nancy Todd, Rita Walsh and Eileen Rose Power. Internationals honours at schools level include Milo Kavanagh, Jimmy Leahy, Christy Moylan, Gary Murphy, Rita Walsh, Nano Brennan and Vivienne Hogan.
15. Smithwicks Scratch Cup. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Smithwicks Scratch Cup which was inaugurated in 1964. The first winner was a Kilkenny member – Tom Duggan – and he was followed the next year by Ireland's most famous amateur golfer, Joe Carr. The Kilkenny Premier Senior Trophy has been keenly contested and won by many of Ireland's most famous amateur golfers including Brian Malone, Liam Higgins, John O'Leary, Martin O'Brien, D McGrane, Pat Mulcare, Paraic O'Rourke, Liam McNamara, Mark Gannon, Padraig Harrinigton, Eddie Dunne, and Eddie Power (5 Times). Quite uniquely, Padraig Harrington's current caddy Ronan Flood also won the Smithwicks Scratch Cup six years after Padraig in 1998. Other Kilkenny members to win the Cup include Paul O'Hara, Jim Mahon, David McDonald, Tom Deegan (jnr.) and Michael Buggy.
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