Ballyliffin Golf Club
Golden Jubilee Commerative Booklet 1947 - 1997
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The exact date of origin of the game of Golf in the Ballyliffin area is difficult to pinpoint. Clubs in Greencastle (1893), North West (1890) and City of Derry (1912) were already well established by the 1940's and supposedly their success acted as a reassuring prompt to the formal establishment of a Club in Ballyliffin. The game had been played spasmodically at Pollen Green (Gerard Grants land) by members of the British Army, stationed at Leenan Fort and later in the 1920's and 1930's by Carndonagh Bankers and others who could afford the time. In any case by the middle to late 1940's after the end of World War II the concept of establishing a Club in the area gained momentum.
A meeting of those interested in the formation of the Golf Club at Ballyliffin was held in Ballyliffin Hall on 2nd April, 1947. Rev. J. Gallagher D.D. Clonmany was elected to chair the meeting. The meetina unanimously agreed to undertake the establishment of a course on Pollen Green. The following committee was appointed to negotiate an agreement with the owners of the land and to raise funds by advance subscriptions:
A Sub. Committee P. McCormack, Dr. Friel: P V. Dunworth, P. Grant. B. Harkin and P. Gallen was appointed to act as Financial Trustees with the task of collecting subscriptions.
At a general meeting on the 22nd May, 1947 it was formally proposed by Dr. F. C. Friel, seconded by P. J. McCarroll and passed unanimously that the Ballyliffin Golf Club be established.
The following officials were appoihted for the inaugural year:
Membership fees were fixed as follows:
The work of laying out the course was undertaken by Mr. Fleming, Assistant County Secretary with assistance from Messer Dickson and Bonnar of the North West Golf Club and Mr. Callan of Greencastle Golf Club. The original course was a 9-hole layout which started at Pollen Beach, extended around the big bank, crossed over towards the town loaning ; and skirting the fields finished with a par 3 across the big drain, (However, outlines would be chopped and changed over the years)
By the 8th August, 1947 a lease of all the necessary rights for a period of ten years was granted by the ten landowners concerned to the newly elected trustees of the Club, namely: Rev. J, Gallagher; M.D. White, Patrick J. O'Doherty, Patrick Gallen and Bernard Harkin, for an initial annual sum of £1 per year per landowner. For the record those local landowners who collectively owned the commonage known as Pollen Green, were Charles Doherty (C), Patrick Grant, Michael Doherty, Denis Doherty, William Toland, Bernard Grant, Neil Doherty, Owen McLaughlin, Daniel Doherty and Corneilius Doherty.
A first Greenkeeper / Caretaker, William Toland, was initially employed from May until September at £2 per week with additional casual labour bringing the wage bill for the year to $45-10 -0. An army style 'Nissen' Hut was purchased for £16 - 16s -0d to serve as a temporary Clubhouse and was erected at Pollen Green. (although in truth it was little used apart from a store for tools).
The course was unofficially declared open for play to Members in June, but because the newly laid greens were still quite rough it was decided to postpone the official opening until their condition improved. A Greens Committee, composed of Dr. Friel, Sgt. Crehan, P. J. McCarroll and Harold Workman was appointed to take charge of all work to ensure that the new course would be in good order for the coming season.
Several fund-raising efforts were made over that first winter with for example; on 9th December the Convent of Mercy Past Pupils Dramatic Society of Derry performed "The Quiet Weekend" in the Colgan Hall, which raised the tidy sum of £16 towards the clubs coffers.
Two founder members Dr. Gallagher (Transferred to Coleraine) and Mr. Fleming, left the area during the year; the club acknowledged their trojan work in helping in its initiation.
At the final meeting of this historic year, the A.G.M. the Honorary Secretary Mr. Patrick J. O'Doherty recorded the following prophetic assessment. ..
"In the opinion of the Committee, the prospects tor the Club in the coming years are bright. The initial work is now over and a course is in existence and although perhaps not up to the standard of other 9-hole courses, it is capable of great development, and has the advantages of being ideally situated and tree from major obstructions..."
May 2nd, 1948 was the date eventually chosen to mark the official opening of the Club. An open competition was held which drew a large entry, including many members from the 'North West' Club in Buncrana. The competition was won by Mr. Walter Fitzgerald with Mr. P. J. McCarroll runner-up. A social evening was later held in the Strand Hotel, Ballyliffin to celebrate the occasion.
The first Captains Prize was competed for on the 29th August, 1948. From a large field of competitors Mr. Theo McLaughlin emerged victorious. The Captain Mr. White presented the winner with a handsome dressing case at a function in the Strand Hotel.
Naturally, fund-raising for the new Club was always a priority and many events/functions were held during the year; e.g. a sweep on the St. Leger raised £66 -0- 4 and a Supper Dance in the Colgan Hall realised a net profit of £51 -2- 0. Collectively, through direct members participation the Club was soon reporting a healthy credit balance which augured well for its continued development.
It's also worth recording that after two years in business the Club had forged a strong support group from among members of the North West Club- indeed a relationship (among others) that continues to thrive 50 years on! 1948 -1949 saw the Club continuing to expand not least reflected in the £10 purchase of its first mower - The Atco Motor Mower; which at the time was seen as a momental achievement but in reality it proved to be a mechanical nightmare.
On 26th June, 1949 the Club participated in its first competitive match -away to Greencastle, in which they were defeated 6 and 1 .However, on the return match at home, Ballyliffin recorded a first team victory 4 and 2 with 2 half matches. A Novices Cup was also competed for, for the first time with Mr. Neil P. O'Doherty emerging as winner. The Captains Prize was won by Dr. Friel.
On the 11th September, 1949 a first match against the 'North West' was held at Lisfannon. Ballyliffin suffered a 6 and 1 defeat but again in the return match on 9th December recorded a 5 and 4 victory.
1948 -1949 also saw the departure of two founder members; the treasurer Mr. McCormack and Sgt. Crehan - both extremely hard working, committed members of the Club. Other names synonymous with the Club at this time included: Cahir O'Doherty; Frank McCarroll, Derry (County); Joseph Lynas, Dr. Eamon De Valera, Dublin; Joseph Butler, Daniel Gilmore; James McEleney, Charles Crampsie; James McLaughlin; Dr. James McCormack; Rev. Thomas O'Doherty; Theo McLaughlin; Anthony Doherty; Ms. M. Reid; Peter Comiskey; Dr. James O'Donnell; Joseph Doherty (O); Willie Doherty (S); Tony Diver, Tom Haughey; Sean McGonagle, Derry; J. J. Butler; Vera Butler; Ms. Alice O'Doherty; Sean O'Leary and Patsy McGonagle. Membership of the Club for these people didn't just mean turning up to play a round of golf, in practice it meant that they were the Club, body and soul, physically and emotionally. Before their round of golf they brought along their own lawnmowers to cut greens and tees and to check on wire that enclosed the greens (used to protect them from the animals that grazed the fairways - the original 'gang mower' if you like!). Quite simply they prepared the course first and then got down to the business of golf. Thus the beginning of the unique "spirit of Ballyliffin" -good humoured selfless participation!
At the A.G.M. of 16th April, 1952 Patrick J O'Doherty the Honorary Secretary recorded the following observations. ..
"The position of the Club after 5 years of existence is that it has succeeded in establishing a useful 9-hole course at Ballyliffin. A great deal of work of laying out and maintaining the links was carried out voluntarily by the members' themselves and one of the features of the club during these five years has been the spirit of friendly co- operation between all members in this respect. The links have provided a welcome source of recreation for a large number of people and the series of competitions and out matches provided opportunities for friendly social contact with members of neighbouring clubs... The Ballyliffin Golf Club has made something of a name for itself in Inishowen."