Golf club split by power struggle

A leading golf club, which has been plagued by division and internal power struggles, last night heard a plea for unity from its newly elected captain.

For the first time in its 119-year history there was a contest for the captaincy of Killarney Golf and Fishing Club, with vice-captain James Ormonde defeating former club director James Loughnane.

Such a contest, seen by some club insiders as a battle between the old guard and the new, marked a break with a time-honoured tradition in golf whereby the vice-captain is normally elected captain, unopposed, for the following year.

Following unprecedented canvassing, almost 500 Killarney golfers packed into the clubhouse for the AGM of the men’s club, where they voted four to one in support of Mr Ormonde, it is understood.

At the start, Mr Loughnane attempted to explain his position, but was ruled out of order by captain Chris Collins, in the chair. He was also shouted down by some members.

However, both men spoke at the end of the meeting, with Mr Loughnane describing it as a “good exercise in democracy’’.

Mr Ormonde, who donned the blazer as 2013 captain, said it had been a traumatic day and voiced concern about the position in which the challenge had placed the club in golfing circles.

The club, currently undergoing a major review of its operations by consultants Deloitte, has been beset by financial difficulties and faces “extremely challenging times’’, he added.

Calling for unity, however, Mr Ormonde was confident the club would overcome such challenges.

Significantly, the meeting was also told that Fáilte Ireland — 75% shareholder in the club — is to start negotiations on handing over governance of the club to the members, who will form a new body, or board, to oversee operations.

A strong lobby, which has been seeking more control by members and which is being championed by Mr Ormonde, is demanding that the members of the new controlling body be elected, rather than appointed.

That could also prove to be a vexed issue.

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