WHILE last year brought many challenges for golf, it gave Pat Barrett an opportunity.
Pat took up the role of General Manager in Muskerry Golf Club last year and despite the interruptions from the lockdowns the Limerick man has been busy settling into his new role.
Having previously worked at other courses, Barrett was delighted to get the opportunity in Muskerry.
“Being from South Limerick I grew up playing Golf in Charleville North Cork so I was well aware of Muskerry being one of the established Cork clubs,” explained Pat.
“I had played the course a few times over the years and while it always struck me as one of the biggest and more traditional clubs you were always made feel welcome.
"When I joined the team I wasn’t disappointed, I have been made very welcome by all at the club which is great.
"The Officers and the board have been brilliant with me and it has been a very smooth transition to the role.”
While the transition might have been smooth, it wasn’t a smooth year on the course.
Two lockdowns, travel restrictions and huge demand when the course was open were features of a strange year on and off the course.
“It’s a very strange time right now not just in golf but society as a whole,” added Pat, who was very aware of the history of the club.
“Muskerry is very solid and proud of its traditions. The Club Professional, GM along with our current head Greenkeeper and barman who have had in excess of 100 years service between them.
"That gives you a sense of stability and continuity which is needed at this time. Following on in the footsteps of Hugo Gallagher will be no easy task for me but he has left a very stable club to run and operate and I’m looking forward to the challenge.
"We have had tremendous support for the membership, and this helped us through 2020 and into 2021.
"During the current lockdown the club has continued the capital projects programme and indeed some of these projects have been brought forward and completed.
"I personally can’t wait to have members return not only to have a buzz around the club again but I’m sure they will all enjoy the subtle changes and improvements made.”
With several years of experience behind him, Pat is ideally placed for the role.
Having worked in other clubs over the past decade he’s had plenty of experience of highs and lows of running a club.
“The road has been a bumpy one, but a definite high point was being the person responsible for bringing and managing two EuroPro tour events to two different resort courses and showcasing them on Sky Sports.
"I always wanted to manage a traditional members club and trough contacts made in the IGCMA I was advised to follow the educational programme set out by the Club Managers association of Europe.
"Happy to say that I am now one of a few working club Managers who have completed the stages necessary to gain my club Management Diploma and I start in a couple of weeks’ time following up on the road to gaining CCM which would be a great personal achievement.
"The process of education and experience led me to the role of General Manager for Muskerry and I’m thrilled to be here.”
With every looking forward to the lifting of restrictions and the reopening of courses, Pat is keen to ensure that members are the first priority, especially those members who are new to the game.
“Just like probably all other clubs nationwide golf we got a nice injection of new members which has certainly helped the running and management of clubs.
"Now the challenge is to engage with the membership both new and long standing to make sure they feel part of the Muskerry Journey, create a new and improved sense of belonging and ensure they will remain active club members for years to come.
"We have a number of member appreciation events in the pipeline for later in the year and would hope to roll these out once restrictions are lifted.
"We also plan to make sure there are ample tee times available for all members for the playing season.
"Visitors and societies are always welcome but we have to make sure that member times and availability for members is priority especially in the season ahead.”
Engagement with new members and keeping retention rates high is no doubt a key priority for all golf clubs for 2021.
While the new members mightn’t have been the most active over the winter months, the restrictions certainly don’t help.
As well as that there’s also the fact that most club renewals take place from November to January so retaining existing members is also a key objective.
Muskerry members were quick to support their club, almost all members have paid their annual subscription at this stage.
That allows Pat and the various committees to plan for the year ahead knowing that the funding is in place.
Golf is relatively unique in Irish sport, the daily upkeep of a course can account for 70-80% of the annual budget through staff and input costs.
With the support of members, Muskerry now have their plans in place and while members will retain priority there are a number of key open events in the schedule for the year ahead.
“We have put our 2021 calendar together and while we know there are going to be disruptions to the plan we hope to showcase Muskerry with two of our biggest events in the year going ahead.
"Our Junior Scratch Trophy, historically has been a major success for a long number of years and we plan to run this again this year.
"The event will have a new date in the diary for 2021 moving from the traditional Easter weekend to a Weekend in September.
"We hope this will allow more people to travel and experience all that we have to offer. We are also looking at pushing and prompting our traditional Bruen Boys event.
"We are in discussions right now with the possibility of developing this to a Bruen youths event so we will see how that progresses.
"All in all we have a full calendar of events for all to enjoy and now we can only wait until restrictions are lifted and we can return in a safe and positive manner.”