Spotlight

100 years young

Apr 01, 2019
Peter Greene reflects on the  special elements that have helped the Chartered Accountants Ireland Golf Society thrive over such a long period of time.

Golf is undoubtedly the ideal sport for a professional body such as Chartered Accountants Ireland to benefit from for member engagement because it almost uniquely transcends age, gender and abilities. Over the years, there has been a significant tradition of Irish Chartered Accountants linking together through golf for sporting association and social interaction.

The first known record of a golf event organised under the auspices of Chartered Accountants Ireland took place in June 1913 at Fortwilliam Golf Club, Belfast to compete for The Institute of Chartered Accountants Golf Challenge Cup. The fabulous trophy (pictured left with the Quin Cup and members in 1924) continues to be competed for annually by members of the Ulster Society, 106 years after its inauguration. Seven years later, in 1920, as the Belfast Newsletter archive press cutting below records, the first meeting of the newly-formed Chartered Accountants Ireland Golf Society was held at Royal County Down Golf Club where “keen rivalry was in evidence between the representatives of Dublin and Belfast”. The society eagerly anticipates the opportunity in September of next year to commemorate its 2020 centenary by returning to that same venue in the very week the first event took place for a special one-off outing.

There are 12 regular golf events in the Chartered Accountants Ireland calendar (visit www.charteredaccountants.ie/golf for the 2019 diary) including the Leinster Society outing for The Old Students’ Cup, which started in the 1930s, and the annual Chartered Accountants Ireland Golf Society weekend meeting for members, which takes place in May of each year at Rosses Point, Sligo.

Early days

There are few records of the society before the 1950s, but we do know that the society held an annual meeting at different venues around the country from press cuttings and from Pat Bryan, who recalls first playing in 1935 at Royal County Down and also at Greenore, Portmarnock and Baltray before the break for the war. Additionally, the Quin Cup, which dates to 1920, and the Smylie Cup, which dates back to 1927, have the winners’ names recorded on the silver trophies which are still competed for annually. It was in the early 1950s that an inspired decision was taken to move the event “permanently” to the west of Ireland as a deliberate strategy to encourage members to stay over for the weekend to engage in social association, which established the society’s long-standing connection with County Sligo Golf Club at Rosses Point.

Rosses Point

The annual meeting has now taken place at Rosses Point for 66 years in a row. Regular participants note that there is something special about the venue and the culture of the weekend that has enabled the society to survive and thrive over such a long period of time. The outing comprises two days of competitive golf for a range of silver perpetual trophies in various categories of competition (some are pictured with the 2017 winners above), which have been presented or donated over many years by our own members, past presidents or named in honour of renowned members of the society. Golf might be the connection through which members are first introduced to the society, but many lifelong friendships have been made over the years and companionship through the sport of golf still brings everyone back to Rosses Point each year.

As you might imagine with an event that has been held in the same place for so many years, traditions have become firmly established. It begins on Thursday evening when the steady stream of members arrive from all over Ireland and overseas at Austie’s Pub in the village for a few drinks to renew old friendships from the previous year. At dinner on Friday in a local restaurant, the gathering welcomes the Institute President, who has the onerous responsibility of selecting (and paying for) the wine, following which we are regaled with expert singing from ‘Bayly the Bard’ (Jonny), our resident baritone and a call to action for the following day’s golf by the inspirational words of the ‘Lorimer’ team captains. After golf on Saturday, it is customary for the putting competition finalists to be heckled relentlessly for any poor putts by the spectators gathered to watch from the clubhouse veranda until the winner of this final trophy is decided and the prize-giving can proceed.

The golf competitions are keenly contested, but the appeal of the annual pilgrimage to Rosses Point stretches beyond the excellent golf on a beautiful links golf course. Members constantly refer to the enduring personal friendships and professional relationships they have developed over many years, and the craic and companionship enjoyed on each visit. The sense that once you crest the hill on the road to Sligo, with the dramatic views of Ben Bulben and Knocknarea on either side, you are drawn into the magic of the place and the enthral of the characters whose company you encounter.

The characters

We cannot do justice to the many personalities that participate in the golf events of the Institute’s golf society in a short article. The captain’s board is a ‘who’s who’ of the society dating back to 1953, many of whom are immortalised by the trophy they presented. Harold Winter from Belfast famously played in the Rosses Point outing for over 50 years in a row, without missing one. The trophy that bears his name is given to the player with the best score by a first-time attendee each year. Harold had an unrivalled competitive nature, as shown by his headwear of choice on the course – a cap emblazoned with the initials PIG which, he explained to innocent newcomers, was like his breakfast where the hen has only a passing interest, while he was like the pig – total commitment.

Harold’s longevity is by no means an exception. In 2018, several players had been playing at Rosses Point for over 50 years. John Bourke (1982) is our oldest regular past captain still participating, while Barry Roughan won the Oakes Cup in 2018, an incredible 55 years after he first won the Quin Cup in 1963. Henry Bell, an obviously competitive past captain, donated a trophy for putting – which he promptly won the first year it was played, so he took it home again. The ‘John Sedgewick’ is a bronze sculpture of a small wizened golfer with his legs, arms and driver twisted twice around his body, not unlike how we remember John in real life.

There are fewer characters bigger than Shane O’Mahony, who first came to Rosses Point in the 1970s as a student member, hitch-hiking from Galway with his clubs over his shoulder. Shane doesn’t recall his golf scores from that first visit, but he does remember that the then President, Cornelius Smith, kept him well-supplied with beer all weekend and that he spent Saturday evening dancing with the local members’ wives at the golf club dance. Shane (Connacht), along with Bill Miscampbell (Ulster) and Hilary Haydon (Leinster) are notorious for their banter over the Lorimer Shield provincial competition. Shane has little reserve when describing certain cultural characteristics of his cousins from the north (Ulster) and those from the big city (Dublin). It is an enduring fact that the “keen rivalry between the representatives” from the different parts of Ireland, which was noted in the newspaper article reporting that first meeting in 1920 and was revived through the introduction of the Desmond Lorimer salver by the then-President in 1968, remains a defining feature of the annual weekend.

International matches

Golf is now an international affair for Irish Chartered Accountants, with annual ‘friendly’ matches against the English Institute for the Celtic Rose Jug, against a French team for the Freire Cup, and – from 2019 onwards – against the Scottish Chartered Accountants for the McCormack Manson Trophy, kindly donated by Feargal McCormack during his presidential year. Simon Hopper, who is one of the regular Chartered Accountants Ireland heavy-hitters on the international front, notes that he has played at 15 Ryder Cup and European Tour venues over the last 10 years and reflects how this all started when he first ventured to Rosses Point as a newly qualified member in 2007. The matches alternate between home and away, with the Irish team of 12 or 14 playing in a Ryder Cup format, selected from participants at the Rosses Point outing.

Get involved

Membership of the golf society is open to all Chartered Accountants regardless of age and gender, and you are cordially invited to join in the fun by coming to Rosses Point in May and/or participating in your local District Society golf outings during the season.
Further information about the society, the calendar of events and
the entry form for Rosses Point are all available online at www.charteredaccountants.ie/golf. Contact us by email at caigolfsociety@gmail.com and follow us on Twitter @ChrtAccGolf. Please feel free to contact Aisling Parker, our 2019 Captain, or our Secretary, Ger Byrne. There were 20 first-timers at the 2018 event and 10 lady golfers. There are prizes for all manner of categories over the two days – nett and gross, and a nine-hole competition over the Bomore links for less (or more) experienced golfers. The society will be 100 years old in 2020 and it is looking to the future by reaching out to younger members – those based in Dublin and further south – all of whom are under-represented at the present time.

Enter this year online using the contact details above and come along on Friday 24 and Saturday 25 May and become part of the second century of Irish golfing Chartered Accountants.