My greatest Irish golfing memory...
2nd green on the Old Course at Ballybunion

My greatest golf story:

My story dates back to August 1996 at Ballybunion Golf Club. Each year Ballybunion host an under 19 boys golf competition called the Kerry Boys. I believe this tournament has been played at Ballybunion since the early 1970s. To enter this tournament a golf handicap needed to be equal or lower than 12  and the entry fee was £5.00 to play.

The Tournament, “The Kerry Boys Championship”:

In 1996 this competition was both Strokeplay and Matchplay. The qualifying 1st round was Strokeplay and that was played on the New Course or Cashin Course. The top 64 qualifying scores got the chance to play the match-play part of the tournament on the Old Course at Ballybunion. At that time what made this tournament very special and the eventual winner or runner-up would have played 5 rounds on the Old Course too. You might agree that six rounds of golf for an entry fee of five old Irish punts was a great deal for week’s golf at Ballybunion.

As it happened, I posted 75 strokes off a handicap of 5 and I qualified comfortably on day 1. The leading qualifier was Mark Power and he scored 72 gross playing off a 2 handicap. Little did we know that both of us would be competing for the championship later that week. After qualifying, I was really looking forward to playing one of the most famous golf courses in Ireland, The Old Course at Ballybunion. 

Consequently, after my first round qualifying score I was wandering around the Pro-shop looking at the latest range of clubs and admiring all the nice clothes that were on display. There I started a conversation with Brian O Callaghan the Head Pro at BallyB. Brian, the very nice gent that he is, he openly gave me a number of tips and advice on how to play the course. He mentioned what shots not to take on and what holes I could take a chance on making birdies. Brian, to his credit, was 100% correct with his advice and I followed it down to the last letter. Plus on another note, he is still the Head Pro at Ballybunion almost 20 years on.

Par 5, 16th green on the Old Course at Ballybunion

How I felt special:

As I remember on a number of occasions during the quarterfinals to the final match I played. As you would expect at Ballybunion, the course is really busy. Notably, to play a match play game in a two ball you are expecting to held-up by fourballs in front of the game. However, when there was such a hold-up, thankfully Ballybunion had a course staff members followed our match most of the tee boxes explaining to other foursomes “we are playing a major championship and would you mind if you would let these young players play through?” The on looking players were not expecting the finalists and without hesitation shuffled to the side of the tee box eagerly waiting for the shots to be played. “Pretty cool,” I thought to myself, it was is a very special feeling to have been introduced with such authority and then to have that small number of golfers with their caddies watch and waiting with expectations to see a couple of boom boom tee shots! I can tell you, at that time I had never felt the onlooker type of pressure before and this added more goose bumps and tension to the next shot number of shots. I do remember hitting a really good my tee shot down the 11th hole and one man’s remarked in a loud New Yorkers voice shouted over at me “hey BUDDY, that’s not bad for a young guy!”

Match-day results:

I won my first match 5/4, the next match 5/4, the Quarter-final match I won on the 19th, I won the semi-final match was won 1up…
17th on the New Course, Cashen at Ballybunion

As I remember, how the final game was played:

I lost 4 out of the first 5 holes, between a couple of 3 putts and losing to a few birdies. The match turning point came as my opponent Mark Power missed a birdie putt from 5 feet on the 6th. Before that, I was thinking that I was going to be hammered out the gate 8&7 or something horrible to that extent. But alas! That was not going to be the case; from a bad lie pin high on the left-hand side of the 6th green I got up and down for a great par and turns out to be a halved hole. I remember feeling a tremendous big lift. I followed up by playing my greatest golf. I won the 7th and 8th holes with birdies, halved the 10th, won the 11th & 12th, we halved the 13th in birdies, I got a big up & down half on the 14th, we halved the 15th in pars and I won the 16th with a birdie. I closed out the match after hitting my tee shot down the centre of the fairway and Mark took out the driver for his tee shot in an attempt to drive the green in 1. That turned out to be a bad decision for him and I easily won out the hole in 4 shots… Then I was crowned Kerry Boy’s Champion for the year 1996…

The good old days at Ballybunion and it’s a nice memory to share. 


1st tee box, Ballybunion Golf Club 

John Dooley PGA
Concierge Golf email:
Office Tel: +353 21 2409110

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