‘It’s like waiting for Christmas Day’ - Club captain looks forward to the return of golf

GOLF

Jeddy Walsh

Reporter:

Jeddy Walsh

‘It’s like waiting for Christmas Day’ - Club captain looks forward to the return of golf

Captain of Clonmel Golf Club, Billy Greene

BILLY GREENE, this year’s captain of Clonmel Golf Club, is both delighted and excited at the prospect of golf clubs reopening on Monday next, April 26.
“It’s like waiting for Christmas Day and everyone is counting the sleeps to the return,” he said, aptly describing the excitement of every golfer waiting to get back on the first tee box at the Lyreanearla course on the Mountain Road outside of the town.
“It’s a very welcome return to golf for all our members who have been so patient and Clonmel Golf Club is really looking forward to the reopening. It has been frustrating for the members, with 13 weeks of closure in a stop-start fashion in 2020, and so far four months of closure in 2021. However, it’s fantastic that we are now getting back and that we have the summer to look forward to. Golfers have really missed the game and also the important social element associated with it in meeting friends, as well as the competitive nature of golf which we all thrive for and love to be tested against,” said Billy.
Billy was quick to point out that there has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes in preparation for the reopening and the club will be hoping to make great strides to make up on lost ground since January.
“From a personal point of view as captain, it has been disappointing not to be out there working with our sponsors and fulfilling fixtures. Having said that, we have been busy each month setting in fixtures in the hope of a return, only for the plans to be set aside and restarted again for the next month. We hope now that we will return to full competitive fixtures from early to mid May in what will be a very tight timeframe for the remainder of the year,” added Billy, a Clonmel native and a long-standing and loyal member of the club.

Billy Greene with his good friend and fellow Clonmel Golf Club member Billy Lambe celebrate the 1994 FAI Junior Cup win over New Ross Celtic at Cooke Park, Tipperary
Billy, who was a member of the historic Clonmel Town team who won the FAI Junior Cup back in 1994 on that unforgettable day at Cooke Park in Tipperary Town (home of St Michael’s) - is a great follower of all sports, but he was also somewhat disappointed that golf was excluded from the list when other sports were allowed to reopen earlier this year.
“With other elite sports having the permission to perform, golfers could not see the rationale as to why such a healthy outdoor activity like golf was not allowed to resume, and I guess that has been the biggest frustration. Golf can be played in a very safe way with social distancing, and it really impacts positively on one’s mental health. That said, the administration side of it takes a lot of work, from the managing of timesheets to the entry of competitions and scores entry, as well as the congregated setting challenges that it poses, while keeping health and safety in mind. Clonmel Golf Club managed all of that in 2020 and we are confident we can do that again in the months ahead,” he added.
Either way all is set for action on Monday next and Billy was quick to point out that the course is in great condition, thanks mainly to the great work of the ground staff team.
“While lockdown persisted, the course itself had to be maintained. It is a great credit to course manager, John Bolger and his ground staff team, as well as volunteers from the membership that this has been done to the very highest standard. Great work has taken place so far and the course is looking magnificent from tee box to green, as well as some super ground works including signage and decorative work,” added Billy.

The clubhouse at Clonmel Golf Club
Of course, just because golf is resuming doesn’t mean that this current pandemic is over, or near it, and Clonmel Golf Club will strictly enforce all Government regulations and indeed extra local rules in the interest of health and safety of everyone.


IT’S MEMBERS ONLY FOR NOW
“On reopening on April 26, we will still be faced with restrictions. It will be casual golf only (with the odd side bet I guess!) and there will be no competitions until we get the go-ahead from Golf Ireland. We will be restricted to 2-balls, 3-balls and 4-balls, which must not consist of more than two households in any of the combinations. This is difficult to manage from a timesheet perspective but we will aim to try to be fair to everyone in order to maximise the time slots available for booking to all members. It’s members only, in the short term, so no guests, visitors or green fees for now until we see further easing of the restrictions.
“Health and safety is paramount and all members will need to abide by the protocols as set out by GolfIreland so that we can return to full-on golf without restriction unscathed in the not too distant future. Contact tracing is a big thing and we must keep records for a minimum of six weeks. We can be audited at any time,” Billy pointed out.
That said, it is an ill wind that doesn’t bring some good, and last year - when the club was operating - there were a lot of new members who found their way up the Mountain Road to try out the sport and indeed join Clonmel Golf Club.
“We had a healthy year last year with membership up significantly, a lot of young GAA players took up the sport. We hope to maintain that vibrancy as we go forward into the spring and summer of 2021. Our membership year has changed now to membership renewals due from April 1 each year (previously January) and we are seeing good progress on renewals as the reopening beckons. We encourage people to get membership renewed as soon as possible so everyone will be able to take part in competitions,” added Billy.
Golf worldwide was facing serious challenges ever before this pandemic began, with reducing memberships and the age profile of members growing as, for the most part, the younger generations chose different pastimes and activities for their leisuire time. But that trend has been arrested again and there is positivity once more in the sport.
“Indeed these are very challenging times for golf clubs all around the country as the overheads and expenses of the clubs persist. Memberships is at the heart of every club and at Clonmel Golf Club we thank all our members who have renewed so far and encourage those who haven’t their membership for 2021 sorted yet to do so as soon as possible.
“The big challenges for Clonmel Golf Club and I imagine all clubs throughout County Tipperary and around the country going forward will be to get back to full golf, fulfill programme fixtures, secure their sponsors, run all major competitions and the inter-club competitions, and of course, to keep everyone safe.
“At Clonmel Golf Club we are looking forward to a fulfilling 2021 in golf and hope everyone will enjoy the experience of returning to the sport again,” concluded Billy.