Castle connects to the heart of the community

Reaching 100 years as a golf club is not a rare achievement but it is no mean feat either, and the hope is that longevity is a sign of an institution that has earned its success on and off the course.

Like many up and down this island, Castle Golf Club is an important and integral part of its local community. And with around 1,400 members, Castle celebrates its centenary year in 2013 by demonstrating how it is more than just a golf club nestled between the Dublin suburbs of Churchtown and Rathfarnham.

“There’s a lot of clubs that have got to this milestone and we’re now fortunate to be one of them. It’s been a great year,” says Castle general manager of 11 years, John McCormack.

“We’re a very busy club at the best of times. We’re one of the few with a full membership and people still waiting to get in and I think a large reason for that is, of course we’ve got a decent golf course, but a big thing for us is that we pride ourselves on keeping our standards as high as we possibly can. That has worked very well for us, particularly in a recession.

“We’re a very busy social club also and all of our social events are sold out, so while it is a special year for us this year, every year’s a busy year, thank God.”

Underpinning the value of the club to its community is a sense of responsibility to its members, epitomised by a programme called “Castle Connect”.

“We don’t just rest on the fact that we’ve got a great golf course, we also try and build a community and a great club. And we set up Castle Connect when the recession hit and we realised that some of our members might struggle or were already struggling. So we put together a panel of mentors, people who were good in their particular businesses or industries, so, for example, if someone was interested in a job in marketing, we could put them in touch with one or two other members who had expertise in that area and were maybe able to help them out.

“We also had nights here when we brought in outsiders, high-profile speakers, to give talks on how various industries work, which are very helpful but in addition to that, it helps people get together and realise they aren’t alone in the struggle.

“We’ve also set up a LinkedIn [page] so there’s further information available on the internet for members and it’s all worked really well.

“So Castle Connect is ongoing, although the demand for it, thankfully, doesn’t seem to be there so much recently as it was when we started four years ago, so that’s hopefully a good sign for everybody.

“The social aspect is very important with lots of varied events throughout the year and we’re very keen to cater to a complete cross-section, so we’re not just catering to one type of member but from very young kids right through to our older members. We try and cater for everybody and we’re very willing to try new things to keep people interested in being part of what we do.”

And the golf side of things at Castle isn’t doing so bad either with a Senior Cup last year at Kinsale GC, when the Cork club hosted the All-Ireland finals in its own centenary year.

“I know 20 years ago, Castle wouldn’t have been seen as a competitive club but that’s all changed. We won the Jimmy Bruen Shield 10 years ago and made it to the All-Ireland finals in the Junior Cup a couple of times as well and then the Senior Cup last year, the best you can win and something that would have been beyond our members’ wildest dreams not so long ago.”

There is also a bright future being fostered within a thriving juvenile section, spearheaded by club professional of almost 50 years David Kinsella and his assistant pro Colin Clancy.

“Our juvenile side is very strong and we’ve two very good pros at the club who have been a big part of that. But the golfers here are so good. We’ve got a couple of internationals now at junior level, Alex Gleeson and Jack Walsh, and Daniel Holland won the Mullingar Scratch Cup this year.

“Daniel’s one of our junior members as well and he won every one of his Senior Cup matches last year and holed the winning putt down in Kinsale. I think we had at least four junior and juvenile members in the [Senior Cup] squad last year and that bodes really well for the future.

“But our senior golf section is very strong, with the likes of [former Down two-time All-Ireland-winning footballer] Conor Deegan, a plus-five handicapper.”

As good as the amateurs are at Castle, though, they better watch out for a certain new member.

“We’ve just elected in the last few days, a Mr Shane Lowry,” McCormack reveals. “He’s good friends with another international at the club, [2010 Irish Amateur Close champion] Dara Lernihan, and Shane likes the club so much he joined it last week. We let him in, so that’s great for us in a great centenary year. Now we’re on to the next 100 years.”

Lowry’s Seve Trophy stance puts stars to shame

Talking of Shane Lowry, who secured his best finish of the season with a tie for third at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland on Sunday, it was refreshing to hear of his disappointment at missing out on qualification for this week’s Seve Trophy.

The Ryder Cup-style team event between GB & Ireland and Continental Europe takes place in the years alternate to the main event and serves as a valuable contest to hone theEuropean’s matchplay skills and competitive team instincts as well as potential captains for when the time comes to unite as a continent and face the Americans.

The level of consistency Lowry is reaching on tour these days suggests the Irishman has a fair chance of making Paul McGinley’s Ryder Cup selection for Gleneagles next September and his unhappiness at having missed out on Seve Trophy selection for Sam Torrance’s GB& I side this week at St Nom la Breteche is laudable.

Even more so given the number of no-shows by many of Europe’s leading lights for an event bearing the name of the great Ballesteros.

It is only 12 months ago that Seve’s name and image was invoked at every turn by the Europeans as they summoned his fighting spirit to perform the “Mircale at Medinah” and rally from a near-perilous position to overhaul the United States and retain the cup.

This week Paul Lawrie will be the only one of the British and Irish player from that heroic effort to honour the great man’s memory and play in the Seve Trophy. That is a great shame.

Veteran Jacklin more bogey than boogie with shank on Strictly

The Golf Column has better things to do of a Friday evening than watch Strictly Come Dancing. Saturday evening too for that matter.

Washing one’s hair springs to mind, and a quick glance of your columnist’s picture adorning this page will display just where that pastime fits into the order of priorities.

Nevertheless, news comes that the newly-launched current season of the celebrity ballroom hoof-athon is featuring its first golfer.

Alas, if the reviews of Tony Jacklin’s live performance of what appears to have been a “railway-themed waltz” — no, we’re not sure either — are to be believed, the former US Open champion and Ryder Cup-winning European captain was well over par with his efforts and will soon be back in the clubhouse, voted off the BBC show at the first play-off hole.

“Littered with mistakes and got worse and worse,” said one judge of a routine, which could also have been referring to most of Rory McIlroy’s rounds of golf this year.

Four Inter-Club wins complete great year for Munster clubs

What a great year it has been for the Munster clubs on the national scene. First, the province took three of the five All-Ireland titles on offer at the GUI’s AIG-sponsored National Cups & Shields finals at Royal Tara Golf Club a fortnight ago, with Ballybunion winning the Junior Cup, Spanish Point taking the Pierce Purcell Shield and Killorglin lifting the Jimmy Bruen Shield.

And last weekend saw further All-Ireland glory at the Private Home Care ILGU Ladies’ Inter-Club Championships in Mullingar.

Castletroy took the Junior Foursomes, Cahir Park won the Minor Cup and East Cork landed a Junior Cup-Challenge Cup double. And after a miserable, winless Cups & Shields, Leinster’s women eased their province’s blushes when Laytown & Bettystown defeated Lahinch to claim the Senior Foursomes at Mullingar with Ulster’s Belvoir Park picking up the remaining title, the Intermediate Cup.

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