Lee Val­ley club hosts Mun­ster Se­niors

Irish Examiner - County - - Sport -

The Keo­hane fam­ily have de­vel­oped the course over the past two decades and that work is con­tin­u­ing.

This year, they re­de­vel­oped the tee box on the sig­na­ture 16th hole.

A new, raised tee box was de­vel­oped for the par three, and it adds a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive to the hole, which is al­ways a chal­lenge, given the tricky pro­file of the green.

The course proved to be a tough chal­lenge for the se­niors. Play­ing off a long, white course, no­body broke par on the first day, with four golfers shoot­ing a level par-72 to tie for the lead.

On the sec­ond day, the course was equally test­ing, with only two play­ers match­ing par.

Two of the overnight lead­ers shot a one-over par 73, with Killiney’s Nigel Duke win­ning the ti­tle on the count­back.

Duke was tied with Mau­rice Kelly, when both golfers shot a 73 to fin­ish the cham­pi­onship on +1.

With both golfers hav­ing carded scores of 72-73, Duke won, thanks to his one-un­der-par back-nine.

That in­cluded birdies on the 11th and the 14th.

Mau­rice Kelly was one shot worse off on his back-nine.

His round in­cluded four birdies and four bo­gies, but he added a fifth bo­gey on the par four 17th to record a level-par back-nine.

Barry O’Leary (Grey­stones) was third and fin­ished on +2, and John Mitchell (Tramore) was fourth, on +4.

The Mun­ster Vet­er­ans ti­tle went to Mau­rice Kelly. The best-placed Cork golfer was Donal O’Dono­van, the Ban­don man shoot­ing rounds of 75 and 76 to fin­ish in sev­enth place.

He also won one of the cat­e­gory prizes.

Although the course is of­ten pre­sented at its tough­est for the top com­pe­ti­tions, the set-up last week was more bal­anced, as Lee Val­ley’s David Keo­hane ex­plained.

“Mun­ster Golf had in­structed us to set up the course, so it didn’t play to its tough­est.

“Pins were made ac­ces­si­ble and we didn’t go back to the blue cham­pi­onship mark­ers.

“All of this was very sen­si­ble, as we would have had over 90 com­peti­tors, and quite a lot of them would never have played Lee Val­ley be­fore.

“We wanted golfers to en­joy their day, whilst play­ing a course that was fair to their ca­pa­bil­i­ties.”

And the re­sponse was very pos­i­tive. “Feed­back from the play­ers was great. Those who had never played Lee Val­ley be­fore nearly all com­mented that they would love to come back and play the course again.

“We even got a book­ing of a Lim­er­ick so­ci­ety for 25 peo­ple, so that was very pos­i­tive.”

The event was a great suc­cess and the Keo­hane fam­ily can be jus­ti­fi­ably proud.

Although David and Paul are now head­ing up the op­er­a­tion, Jerry and Peg were on hand through­out the event.

Jerry has spent the best part of twenty years work­ing on the par-72 cham­pi­onship course, which was de­signed by Christy O’Con­nor Jnr in 1990.

When the course opened, in 1993, that was just the start for Jerry.

Whether it was filling div­ots on the fair­way, tend­ing to bunkers, or plan­ning sub­tle changes, Jerry was a reg­u­lar on the course most evenings.

That mind­set has con­tin­ued this year, with a sub­stan­tial in­vest­ment in ma­chin­ery and new tee boxes.

“There have been a num­ber of course im­prove­ments here, in 2017, with the con­struc­tion of four new tee boxes,” said David.

“The 1st, 6th, 12th and 16th were com­pletely re­designed, with each of them be­ing widened and length­ened.

“The pick of th­ese tee boxes is our new par-three 16th, where we have raised the tee box by over five feet and cre­ated a sur­face area of twen­ty­five by thirty me­tres.

“With the 16th com­pleted, I think we will have four of the finest par threes in Mun­ster.

“We built a new short-game prac­tice fa­cil­ity, where our newly ap­pointed pro, Ian Stafford, gives lessons. We have also added two new ma­chines to our green keep­ing depart­ment.

“One of th­ese was a Dakota spin­ner top-dresser and this ma­chine now al­lows us to spread a thin layer of sand on our greens ev­ery four weeks, thus cre­at­ing a much smoother and faster putting sur­face.” And the work doesn’t fin­ish there. David seems to have caught Jerry’s bug for con­tin­ual course im­prove­ments.

“After a suc­cess­ful 2017, we will again be plan­ning fur­ther course im­prove­ments over the win­ter months, with a par­tic­u­lar fo­cus on up­grad­ing our bunkers and two more of our tee boxes will be re­designed.”

Although golf has gone through a very tough decade, David has seen an up­turn in busi­ness this year, across sev­eral fronts.

Mem­ber­ship num­bers across the prov­ince have stead­ied and, over the past 18 months, there has been a grow­ing op­ti­mism in the in­dus­try.

The drop in reg­u­lar and oc­ca­sional golfers seems to have bot­tomed out and any­one play­ing golf now is here for the long haul.

Join­ing fees and green fees have re­turned to more ac­ces­si­ble lev­els and David is happy to count his course among the sur­vivors.

“2017 has been a suc­cess­ful year for Lee Val­ley. Golf so­ci­eties who dis­banded in the re­ces­sion have formed back up and golf clas­sics are filling their days much eas­ier.

“But golfers, th­ese days, are much dif­fer­ent to the ones ten years ago.

“A golfer wants a qual­ity prod­uct at a rea­son­able price and I be­lieve we of­fer that mix at Lee Val­ley.”

Lee Val­ley’s David Keo­hane pic­tured with Mun­ster Se­niors win­ner, Nigel Duke.

Pauline Far­rell presents Pres­i­dent De­clan’s Prize to Mark Cun­ning­ham at Lee Val­ley Golf Club.

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