THERE'S a changing of the guard in Cork Golf Club this week.
General Manager Matt Sands will retire this weekend after over thirty years at the helm in Little Island.
A Dubliner, Sands came to Cork in the late 80’s after the job was advertised in the Cork Examiner.
A key part of the decision to come to Cork was down to his future wife Cathriona, she was working in the bank and a transfer to the southern capital allowed the couple to plan their move to Cork.
Soon after Matt and Cathriona were married and while Matt is still a Dub, he does have three Cork children; Matt, Cathy and Hannah.
Most golfers who have visited Cork Golf Club over the past thirty years will have come across Matt, and many will remember the pleasant disposition and welcoming smile that have been his trademark.
From early on the Dubliner appreciated that both members and visitors were golfing in their leisure time.
Providing good customer service was key to the job and Matt ensured that everyone playing in Cork was able to appreciate the full experience of the course and the clubhouse.
As well as looking after golfers, Matt’s role also included the running of the club.
Over the past 32 years there have been many major events and projects. From major competitions like the Irish Close and the Ladies home internationals, to the Pro Am and Munster Strokeplay which are annual showpiece events, Cork is generally a busy spot.
Apart from the major competitions, there have been a few major projects that Matt has been involved with in the last three decades and he lists the clubhouse redevelopment in 2002 and the Hawtree designed course upgrade in 2011-2012 among the biggest.
“One of the biggest projects was the clubhouse redevelopment in 2002 and I was really involved in that. It ran on budget and on time – seven months - and we’re still getting compliments regularly on the clubhouse.”
Outside the course and clubhouse, Matt cites the introduction of the board of management as a key development during his tenure.
“We were the first club in Ireland to introduce a Board of Management structure in 1996 and that streamlined the whole job.
"The element of continuity has helped greatly when it came to major projects like the clubhouse and course redevelopments.”
With a three-year term for the chairman and the heads of each portfolio, the Board can take a medium and longer term view when it comes to the planning and implementation of major projects.
Current Cork Chairman Damien Wallace paid tribute to Matt as the club marks his retirement.
“Matt is retiring after 32 years as General Manager of Cork Golf Club and leaves behind an incredible legacy of contribution and service to the Club.
"Matt carried out his duties during this time in a really effective manner, allowing the Club to prosper while at all times being courteous and helpful to members.
"He was involved in all the really big events for the club, the Munster Strokeplay, annual Pro Am, Ladies Home Internationals to name but a few as well managing the day to day administrative requirements with the minimum of fuss.”
As Chairman, Damien is now head of the Board of Management charged with running the club and he appreciates the work that Matt has put in over the past four decades.
“Matt worked with 32 different Captains and Presidents of both the Mens and Ladies section of the Club and was equally committed to all of them during their year of office.
"As Matt retires he can certainly look back on his tenure with pride, secure in the knowledge that he has done a really good job for Cork Golf Club.”
Long tenures are standard in Cork, Anthony Gillis retired a few years ago after over 50 years in several greenkeeping roles.
Gerry Kenneally recently retired from the restaurant after 30 years and Cork’s Club Professional Peter Hickey is celebrating 25 years in Little Island.
Outside of his personal and work responsibilities, Matt was also an active member of the Irish Golf & Club Managers Association.
He was president of the preceding group the Association of Golf Club Secretaries in 2004 and again in 2015 when he was president of the IGCMA.
Matt has also received many awards during his time in Cork including the IGTOA Manager of the Year in 2001 and he was named the Golf Guide Manager of the Year in 2017.
He was also involved in the SWING group that was instrumental in marketing the south and west of Ireland as a golfing destination to an international audience.