Glengarriff Festival of Golf continues to honour local star Maureen O'Hara

Glengarriff Festival of Golf continues to honour local star Maureen O'Hara
The view from the second green at Glengarriff Golf Club

IT’S a busy week in Glengarriff Golf Club as the club celebrates the 38th consecutive Maureen O’Hara Classic and Festival of Golf.

The popular West Cork nine-hole course normally attracts a large number of visitors to the August series of events.

Measuring 4,500 yards, the par 66 course provides some great holes along with a stunning view of the local area.

The scenic location provides views of Bantry Bay as well as the Caha and Sugarloaf mountains. Founded in 1934, the club is a popular location for members and visitors alike and is a great option for tourists to get in a quick round.

The annual classic has become a great calling card for the club. The inaugural classic in 1984 was the O’Hara’s brainchild and some of the local golfing and business people.

The aim of the classic was to generate tourist activity for the area before the main tourist season, which is traditionally July and August, and to raise much-needed funds for the running and upkeep of Glengarriff Golf Course and clubhouse.

Glengarriff Golf Club embraces the late Maureen O’Hara’s vision and continues to meet these objectives annually, not only for the benefit of the club but for the village and surrounding areas.

In its early days, the golf classic was played over one weekend as a ladies singles on Thursday and Friday and a four-man team event on Saturday and Sunday, but over the years it has changed and developed.

The 2020 Maureen O’Hara Classic and Festival of Golf was slightly modified due to the impact of Covid-19 on golf clubs.

The classic began with an open four-man team event over the bank holiday weekend. An open mixed foursomes took place on Wednesday and there’s also a ladies three-person open team event tomorrow and Saturday.

There’s a new event this year to mark the 100th birthday of Maureen O’Hara, the club will hold an open scramble on Friday, August 14.

The link to Maureen O’Hara goes back 50 years when the Dublin-born Hollywood star moved to Glengarriff in 1970 and struck up a strong affinity with the people and the area.

Along with her husband Charles Blair, the couple were great supporters of the club and helped develop the classic which would benefit the golf club and the wider community.

“The inaugural golf classic in 1984 was the brainchild of Maureen O’Hara herself and some of the local golfing and business people,” explained Joe Holland, a Glengarriff Trustee who has been a member for over 30 years.

“After a noticeable decline in tourist numbers visiting this part of West Cork, Maureen’s vision for the golf classic was to try to generate some tourist activity for the area before the main tourist season which is traditionally July and August and to raise some much-needed funds for the running and upkeep of Glengarriff Golf course and clubhouse.

“In its early days, the golf classic was played over four days with a Ladies open Singles competition on Thursday and Friday and the Gents four-man team event on Saturday and Sunday.

“Over the years the Classic has changed and developed and the current format of the tournament is eight days of open competitions and different golfing and social events to attract as many visitors as possible.

“Over the years Maureen O’Hara always attended the presentations and presented the prizes and this was a great attraction for locals and tourists alike with people arriving an hour or two before presentation to get the best seats to meet the iconic Hollywood film star.

“She was always willing to talk and entertain the fans and pose for photos and sign autographs.”

Maureen O'Hara as Esmerelda
Maureen O'Hara as Esmerelda

The Maureen O’Hara link with the club was a longstanding and meaningful one, as Joe Holland explained.

“Maureen O’Hara first came to live in “Lugdine” in Glengarriff with her husband Charles Blair in 1970.

“While out driving one day looking for a house to buy, they arrived in Glengarriff and Charles knew immediately that the area was perfect as he could land a seaplane in the bay and anchor it in Glengarriff Harbour. They bought Lugdine which is immediately next door to the golf club and the rest is history.

“Following the death of her beloved husband in 1978, Maureen continued to spend her summers in Glengarriff and made many friends in the area she called her second home.

“Maureen held the honorary position of Lady President of Glengarriff Golf Club from 1986 until her death in 2015.”

In 2018, the club renamed all the holes on the course after some of Maureen O’Hara’s Classic movies.

The first hole is named Jamaica Inn, after Maureen’s first major movie; the second is named Big Jake, a movie in which Maureen starred with John Wayne and Patrick Wayne; the third hole is named Miracle on 34th Street; the fourth hole is named How Green Is My Valley; the fifth hole is named Sitting Pretty; the sixth hole is The Quiet Man and this is the hole closest to where Maureen lived in Glengarriff for many years.

The seventh hole is The Hunchback From Notre Dame; the eighth hole is named The Parent Trap and the ninth is The Long Gray Line.

While the festival activities will finish next week, green fees are available daily in Glengarriff and there are also regular open competitions for GUI and ILGU members.

Membership is also currently open in Glengarriff for any local or distant golfers interested in joining the club.

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