‘I used some seagull droppings to help steady the ball in the wind’

By Colm O’Connor

So how does a 48-year-old golf fanatic end up firing golf balls into the Atlantic Ocean from the helipad of Fastnet Rock?

“It all came out of an idea to promote golf in West Cork,” Bantry native Alan Kelly explained.

INTO THE WIND: Golf fanatic Alan Kelly tees off on the Fastnet — ‘To me, it felt like it was like a hurricane blowing. And on top of that I had a caddy bag strapped across my back with a full set of clubs and about 20 golf balls.’

Kelly’s relationship with golf stretches back to his childhood and his hometown club. He’s played, he’s caddied, he’s marketed Bantry Bay.

He’s a golf fanatic. And a West Cork fanatic.

And now he found a way of merging his love for the two.

“The idea was that I would go to various landmarks and we would take video footage of me teeing off from these scenic spots.

The plan then would be to upload the videos on social media in an effort to showcase all that is great and good about the region to a worldwide audience.

The locations were chosen to display the very best of the region’s natural beauty with Kelly in action on Mount Gabriel, Bantry House, en route to Garnish Island from the top of the ferry, Gougane Barra and at alongside Mizen Lighthouse.

Then came the trip to Fastnet Rock.

A plan was hatched in conjunction with Dermot O’Sullivan, a publican in Crookhaven, who boated Kelly along with his drone operating team of Skully and Nomah Metisse to ‘Ireland’s teardrop.’

Kelly recounted: “It was flat calm in Crookhaven but by the time we got to Fastnet 45 minutes and six miles later the seas were pretty high and choppy.”

It called on all of O’Sullivan’s seamanship skills to offlead Kelly onto the rock, the most southerly point of Ireland.

“Dermot had to accelerate and then reverse in time with the swells. Then I had to time my jump from the boat.

Let’s just say we were all feeling a bit mad that morning!

Twelve months earlier a wind gust of 191 kph was recorded at the lighthouse during Storm Ophelia.

The figure became an Irish record, based on measurements going back to the 1860s.

It may not have been as severe on the morning in question but trying telling that to Kelly.

“To me, it felt like it was like a hurricane blowing . And on top of that I had a caddy bag strapped across my back with a full set of clubs and about 20 golf balls.”

Kelly climbed the steps to the helipad but the weather Gods weren’t assisting his escapade.

“The biggest problem I had was to get the ball to stay still. So I had to improvise things a little.

I used some seagull droppings to help steady things and from there I fired off all the balls into the ocean.

“There was one shot, I hit the concrete and shanked it and nearly hit the lads in the boat!

“My swing wasn’t matching the scenery, that’s for sure.

“But thankfully we got the footage we needed, so from that side of things it was a success.”

The return trip was an adventure in itself, just stepping off the base of the country’s most iconic lighthouse was not for the fainthearted.

Kelly admitted: “It was tricky enough, we got a bit wet, one or two hairy moments which could have ended with me in a deep hole.”

Kelly’s work may have been done but that is when the hard toil really began as all the footage from the various locations had to be knitted, sliced, spiced and pieced together.

“At the start, people were laughing at the idea but now that bits and pieces of the footage are being compiled the feedback has been incredible.

“Sophie O’Donovan has done absolutely incredible work in terms of editing and producing the footage of the various places.

“I can’t praise her, or her work, highly enough.

Another man that deserves huge praise for making this idea become a reality is Billy Aylmer down in Bantry.

“Billy runs a quiz every year and he donated money for this production to cover the costs of paying for the drone and other such expenses.

“Again this project wouldn’t have ever gotten off the ground was it not for his help, and that of so many others.

“The footage is there now and we are just putting the finishing touches on it.

“The plan is to upload it all next week and hopefully golf and West Cork will be all the better for it.”

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