Inside Golf: Ballybunion remembers its historic Olympic links

Golf returns to the Olympic Games next year after more than a century in the wilderness but a ceremony conducted on the fifth tee at Ballybunion over the weekend served as a reminder that the game has made a small contribution to Irish sporting success on the world’s biggest stage.

Inside Golf: Ballybunion remembers its historic Olympic links

Bringing to mind scenes from the Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire when British Olympians Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell trained on the West Sands next to St Andrews, it was amidst the dunes of Ballybunion’s revered Old Course and specifically the fifth fairway that Bob Tisdall and Dr Pat O’Callaghan trained in preparation for the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles.

O’Callaghan, from Kanturk, Co. Cork, had four years earlier become the first athlete from an independent Ireland to win an Olympic medal when he stood on the podium and collected gold in the hammer, while Tisdall, raised in Nenagh, Co.Tipperary, was a 400-metre hurdler.

Both won gold in LA in 1932, within 10 minutes of each other, Tisdall first and then O’Callaghan, and last Saturday morning there was a large gathering around the fifth tee at Ballybunion Golf Club for the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the course’s historic links with the Olympic Games. (see picture above).

Damien McGrane makes Irish PGA winning return at K Club

European Tour campaigner Damien McGrane made a winning return to the Irish PGA Professionals circuit when emerged victorious at The K Club Newstalk Irish PGA Pro-Am in Co. Kildare.

In a rain-shortened event that cut the tournament from 36 holes to 18 following a wash-out last Tuesday, McGrane came out on the Wednesday and carded a six-under-par 66 over the Palmer Course.

That round, shot in the better conditions of Wednesday afternoon, was good enough for a three-shot victory over Elm Park's Dara Lernihan and McGrane said: “We definitely got the best of the draw so I suppose psychologically we were more positive going out.

“I played pretty well and holed a few putts and that's what you have to do to go low.”

The 44-year-old started his round with a birdie at the 10th hole and was three under at the turn and four under before his only blemish of the day came with a bogey at the fifth. McGrane, though, rebounded in style with a hat-trick of birdies at seven, eight and nine to finish on six under with a back nine of 32.

“I knew if I could finish my round off with a couple of birdies I would be difficult to catch,” he said. “At the same time, I knew that a couple of mistakes could drop me back into a battle again so it was particularly pleasing to finish off the round in such a strong fashion.”

Lernihan's 69 had no dropped shots with his birdies coming at the first, 12 and 15th to allow the 28-year-old to finish second, four clear of five players, Peter Lawrie, Robert Giles, Mark Staunton, Neil O'Briain and Eamonn Brady.

McGrane will now hope to transfer his good form back to the European Tour, on which he is currently ranked 161st in the Race to Dubai. He will be teeing it up at El Prat, near Barcelona from Thursday in the Spanish Open alongside former champion Lawrie.

Gavin Caldwell’s R&A honour

Congratulations to Irishman Gavin Caldwell who has been nominated as captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews for 2015-16.

The 12-handicapper from Howth, Co. Dublin, president of the Dublin University Golfing Society, was nominated by the past Captains of the Club and will begin his year in office with the traditional driving-in ceremony on the first tee of the Old Course at St Andrews on September 25.

A former Trustee of Portmarnock Golf Club, Caldwell, born in 1947, was club Captain and Chairman of the Walker Cup Committee when it hosted the 1991 match and he has also served on the Amateur Status and Championship Committees of The R&A.

He has been a member of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club, which was established in 1754, since 1996. Having devolved responsibility for the Rules of Golf and running of The Open Championship and other tournaments to the newly-formed R&A in 2004, its 250th anniversary, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews is a private golf club with a world-wide membership of 2,400.

Dr Flynn Memorial Pro-Am

PGA in Ireland officials are working with their counterparts at Shannon Golf Club to reschedule the Dr Flynn Memorial Pro-Am later in the season after the tournament fell victim to heavy rain last Thursday. The downpours made conditions unplayable, which means the next event on the PGA in Ireland schedule is the Seafield Golf & Country Club Pro-Am in Gorey, Co. Wexford this Friday.

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