Spillane fears other courses will follow Killorglin into closure

Spillane fears other courses will follow Killorglin into closure
Picture: Eamonn Keogh (MacMonagle, Killarney)

Aidan Spillane’s biggest fear is that his sadness at the closing of Killorglin Golf Club will be repeated far and wide before Ireland overcomes the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak.

The course closed signs went up at the scenic Kerry parkland course and the members-run club shut its doors for the final time last weekend with the loss of three permanent and three part-time jobs after 28 years as a fixture in the Kingdom.

A long-standing member and part of the membership that took over the running of the club on a lease from course owner Billy Dodd in 2018, Spillane served as the secretary at Killorglin but said the advent of the coronavirus and its economic impact was the final straw in the club’s losing fight for survival.

“It’s tough to take but we had a number of factors to deal with,” Spillane told the Irish Examiner, “a very bad winter and our numbers were dwindling a bit. We were struggling to survive but we were surviving but then the Covid-19 just put the tin hat on it.

“We’d no money coming and because of the bad weather very few members had renewed their subs. They normally would do when the weather improved but the onset of Covid-19 meant nothing was coming in. We’ve had no green fees at all.

“A lot of the guys coming to Kerry want to play links golf but this place is divine, beautiful, we’ve probably the nicest view in Ireland looking down Dingle Bay. But our funds were dwindling rapidly and with nothing coming in we made the decision that at least we were in a position to walk away with our heads up and free of debt.

“Going into debt would have been very murky and not something any of us wanted to be. But we’ve some fantastic memories. I was involved with the team that won the Bruen Shield in 2013, which was fantastic. For a small club we were punching above our weight and credit to Billy Dodd, he opened the club in 1992 when his idea was to make golf affordable to everyone, how golf should be. There were some great experiences so this is a sad reality.”

Spillane said many of Killorglin’s members would take up what he described as a great offer from neighbouring club Beaufort but he now fears the uncertainty surrounding the length of time golf courses will be asked to remain closed could send more to the wall.

“I suspect we won’t be the last, like a lot of businesses. No more than anywhere else, in a lot of counties, but certainly in Kerry, the big clubs will weather this but there’s a number of smaller clubs that are on the edge and you’d wonder, is this going to tip them over? A lot of our members wouldn’t be that affluent so like others they would have weighed up shelling out €600 on a membership when the prospects for their job might not be great for the next couple of months. We won’t be the last I’d say.”

  • Meanwhile, the JP McManus Pro-Am Committee will make a decision on May 1 as to the viability of progressing with its plans to stage the 2020 fundraiser set for July 6-7. The star-studded event at Adare Manor has secured commitments from the world’s top golfers including Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, and Justin Rose, as well as celebrities including Mark Wahlberg and Niall Horan.

A statement from the committee read: “We are very hopeful that the Pro-Am will take place as scheduled but will continue to monitor our position in consultation with our stakeholders, and on the advice of Government health bodies and medical experts.

“Due to the nature of the COVID-19 crisis, the decision on whether the 2020 JP McManus Pro-Am proceeds as planned may be out of our control but we will at all times prioritise the health and safety of our attendees, players, staff, volunteers and everybody associated with the event. We will have an additional update by May 1.”

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