Lee Valley club hosts Munster Seniors
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.