Reproduced from “Watercolour view of Armagh from the 18th green” courtesy of the late Joe Hynes


As I begin to reflect on the past year, I’m reminded of the epigram which I quoted at the inauguration ceremony back in January.

“We should always be grateful for the past, find joy in the present and remain excited for the future”

The past year has been a very eventful one. When it began, I had my beloved James at my side and we hoped that we would be able to celebrate the entire year together. It was not to be, as James passed away in March. The support which I received from all of the members of the Club and the wider golfing community sustained me in those dark days and since. I have been comforted to reflect that James would have been proud of what we have been able to achieve during the past year and his memory continues to allow me to find joy in every day. To misquote Maya Angelou “Today is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before”.

And we have had many wonderful days in 2023. There are too many to mention individually but the Junior Cup team, ably led by Lady Vice Captain, Ellen becoming Ulster South Champions was a particular highlight. Unfortunately, a narrow defeat to Castlebar in the Quarter Finals, played at Lough Erne, robbed them of the chance of All Ireland glory. Team members have been forged in the fire of competition and look forward to the 2024 season and even greater success.


I have been particularly pleased to have received many compliments about my Captain’s Day celebrations. Wonderful weather, wonderful food and exceptional entertainment on the night made it a day that I will remember with pride.

The continued support of our loyal sponsors, and the welcome addition of a number of new ones, was another tremendous feature of the past year. I am advised that this is the first year when all of the Ladies’ competitions have been supported by a sponsor. Past Captain Michael has been copying our homework and tells me that the men’s section has also attracted a number of new sponsors. Long may this continue and members can assist our efforts by supporting our sponsors and shopping locally, especially at Christmas. The list of sponsors continues to feature on the television set in the bar; that is when it’s not showing pictures from our various events!

And what events we have enjoyed! From the Easter Bonnet parade in April, through the Pretty in Pink Day to the Halloween festivities. All provided an opportunity for us to show our creative side and there were some memorable creations, not to mention a few that are best forgotten. While the events may appear to be distracting fripperies, they serve a useful purpose in that they allow us to fundraise for various charities. And 2023 has been a very successful year for fundraising. From the joint Captains’ appeal for the Armagh Food Bank at the start of the year, through our various charity events and the Captains’ and President’s days well over £5000 has been raised. Pretty in Pink, a charity very close to my heart, The Southern Area Hospice and the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust (the nominated charities of myself, Captain Gerry and President Paddy respectively) were the main beneficiaries of these events but other charities continued to receive our support. There is always a danger that I will leave one out, and apologies if I have done so, but McMillan Cancer, Marie Curie, RNLI, Brain Tumour Research and Children vs Cancer are those charities from which I have received, on behalf of Club members, thanks for our generous support. I cannot finish comment on our charitable activities without mentioning the Nit and Natters group which has continued to flourish and to provide support for Pretty in Pink. Please consider getting involved in 2024. It is both rewarding and very enjoyable.

I was able to find joy in every day when I entered our magnificent clubhouse with the superb Parkland Restaurant attracting many members and visitors, all of whom have raved about the quality of the food and the service. It was no surprise when chef Ryan was recognised with a runner up place in Chef of the Year (whoever won must be some chef!) and the restaurant itself won Restaurant of the Year in the Food Awards Northern Ireland in March. Brenda’s smile was especially wide at that event and the staff’s style was a credit to all.

The bar is always a welcome and comforting haven and Neil and his team continue to provide excellent service at heavy members’ discounts. You only have to purchase a round in another establishment to know how well provided for we are.

And who could not find joy on our wonderful course? It may be difficult to appreciate it at the moment as we have been stymied by the inclement weather. Finding joy on the course in a year which has recorded three months of the highest rainfall levels since records began is difficult. I prefer to think back on the magnificent days of an all too brief summer and the conditions which we all enjoyed with run on the ball and receptive and true greens. The highlight of the course’s year was the opening of the new 18th. Expectations were “mixed” as we were forced into a redesign by concerns about the danger to our neighbours on the 18th but what a product has been delivered. Ken Kearney’s accomplishments as an amateur golfer were considerable (losing out only to Padraig Harrington in the West of Ireland and winner of a number of other amateur “Majors”) but his skill as a course architect is unassailable. The vista which awaits players as they approach the 18th tee is unsurpassed in Ireland and Ken has made full use of our enviable backdrop. I am pleased that Colm and his team on the Development Committee have retained Ken for work to the new practice area, to be opened in 2024, and for a revised course plan which will be produced in February and will provide a roadmap for improvements to last well into the future.

These plans excite me for the future, completing the third leg of my epigram. The future for the Club is bright. It is well run and in comparatively good financial standing. On the running of the Club I was pleased that progress towards a One Club model continues to be made and step changes in our structure are expected in 2024 and beyond. We have an incoming Lady President, Elizabeth Mawhinney. Some have heralded Elizabeth’s arrival in the role as the “first Lady President” but I am reminded by some of our older members that Elizabeth is not the first to fill the role. In 1939 the position of President was held by Mrs N. Smith. Some clues as to this appointment appear in Jack O’ Hare’s excellent book, “The Centenary Story”. It appears that this appointment might have had something to do with the absence of her husband, Captain N. S. Smith, on “other duties” whatever those were! He appeared back on the scene and continued in the role, which he had held since 1934, until 1967. It has only taken 84 years for us to have our second Lady President! Hopefully a succession plan can be drawn up by the Liaison Committee to ensure that we don’t have to wait as long again!

As I referred to above we have made progress towards the One Club model which GolfIreland have encouraged. More work is still to be done and, as I wish my successor Ellen and incoming Captain Neil every success for 2024, I would encourage all ladies to support the Club as it works towards these admirable goals. One area of concern is the low number of Ladies in the 25-35 year bracket. This cohort of members will provide the bulk of the playing membership into the future and, while there are healthy numbers of men in this category, fewer ladies avail of the wonderful opportunity which golf offers. I would encourage all Ladies to speak to their friends who might have an interest in a sporting activity which provides healthy and enjoyable exercise at very reasonable prices. Tell them what a wonderful facility we have, how members are welcoming and supportive and how much they will enjoy making golf as valuable a part of their lives as it is of ours.

Happy Christmas and a Very Happy 2024.