To the Manor born for McMahon

ADARE MANOR, the beautifully-located course on thebanks of the River Maigue in Co Limerick, will celebrate this week for one of their most esteemed members, Sean McMahon will be elected president of the Golfing Union of Ireland at their AGM in Carton House on Friday.

Adare Manor was founded in 1900 as a nine-hole course in the Dunraven Estate and was soon recognised as an extremely pleasant and enjoyable lay-out incorporating the ruins of the Franciscan Abbey built in 1464 and the Desmond Castle that provides the backdrop to the first and 18th greens.

It had a very special ambience all of its own and produced some fine golfers, most notably 1979 Irish Close champion Jackie Harrington, a brilliantly natural golfer who accumulated numerous other titles during his illustrious career and whose name still appears regularly in the results columns. The club also captured the Pierce Purcell Shield in 1985.

Adare Manor (which is not to be confused with the magnificent Robert Trent Jones-designed Adare Manor Hotel & Golf Resort on the other side of the Maigue) was extended to 18 holes in 1992 under a design presented by the late and much respected golf course architect, Eddie Hackett.

Sean McMahon got involved in the game in a rather traditional manner. A native of Mungret, his father Michael was a member of Adare Manor and he caddied for his dad for a few years before joining the club in 1959. In typically-self deprecating fashion, he admits he got involved in the administrative side of things “when I discovered I was useless at the game. I was elected to the club committee and the rules of golf became my forte although there are a lot of Pierce Purcell Shield players who wouldn’t agree.”

Criticism, be it fair or otherwise, washed off McMahon and his critics without any residue of acrimony on either side and he quickly became one of the most popular members of the Munster Council in the mid 1970s.

The legendary Dick Barry was the Hon Secretary and was an all consuming force in the game in Munster for many years. McMahon and Barry were of a similar mind, their aims being to further the amateur ethos of the game and to ensure that all competitions were contested fairly and in accordance with the rules.

McMahon worked as the Council’s Hon Match and Handicap Secretary and when Barry retired as Hon Secretary, Sean inevitably took over in a seamless transfer of responsibility. He remained in that position until 2006 to become chairman before moving on to the position of president-elect in 2009. Now he moves on to the top position in the sport, following in the footsteps of three other Limerick club members, Tommy O’Donnell (Castletroy) and Paddy McPolin and Jack Lynch (both Limerick Golf Club).

Interestingly, O’Donnell captained Adare Manor in his time and is unique in that he also held the position of President of the Irish Amateur Rowing Union.

“This is a great honour for my club, to whom I am extremely grateful for their support over the years, and my family, wife Margaret and sons and daughters Michael, Cliona, Aileen, Cathal and Eoin”, he said.

“These are difficult times for golf in Ireland as the recession has hit many clubs very badly and it seems some are even struggling to survive. We in the GUI are aware of this and are happy to offer advice and any assistance we can without, of course, in any way becoming involved in the internal affairs of any of them, something we could not do.”

McMahon, the former circulation manager of the Irish Examiner in the North Munster area, isn’t setting any targets for his year of presidency. He does stress, however, his commitment to the union’s big coaching development scheme stretching across all four provinces.

“I will certainly keep pushing that policy,” he says. “There’s a lot of work going on there and it’s certainly bearing fruit. You only have to look at Rory McIlroy. He came through the system just as most of those of the other Irish players making their presence felt on the world tours like Shane Lowry. I know Rory is exceptional but we want to bring everyone to their highest possible level and enjoying the game.”

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