FOCUSSING on this weekend’s venue itself in our build-up to this weekend, John Manning looks at some of the more memorable moments to have taken place around the Cork track, a course where in essence only the very best have won!
After a weekend of torrential rain, Teresa McGuigan (Shandon) defeated May Buckley (Rocklodge) by 12&11 in the National Ladies Matchplay Final on June 19th 1966. It was a second of three titles in-a-row for Teresa, who was Clare Keating’s main rival in the 1960s and 1970s, the pair winning 22 National Ladies individual championships between them. In 1970 Clare beat Kay Foley (St. Annes) by 5&4 in the final to claim her third of eight titles, a first since becoming Mrs Keating. When as Miss Clare Foley, she holed for 156 at Rocklodge on 15th September 1963, the Woodvale legend was winning her maiden National Ladies Strokeplay Championship and completing the first-ever National Ladies individual double.
June 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of Joe Doyle’s first win in the National Gents Matchplay championship. The young Carrigaline player was a comparatively recent convert to Pitch and Putt and playing off a provisional six handicap when he triumphed at Rocklodge in 1969. The 16-year-old and relatively unheralded Doyle fought his way through the early rounds before facing the great Mick Forrest, then playing out of the Highfield club, in the Semi-Final on the morning of June 2nd. After a wonderful joust between the two Corkmen, Joe Doyle prevailed on the 38th hole. Doyle’s opponent in the final was Andy Doherty (Portmarnock).
Doherty, who had been already an Inter-County runner-up with Dublin in 1966 and who would go on to win three Inter-County titles with the Metropolitans, was probably a slight favourite in advance of the 1969 National Matchplay Final, but there was to be no denying Joe Doyle who ran out a comfortable 4&3 winner. The National Gents Matchplay returned to Rocklodge just two years later when Joe’s friendly adversary in the 1971 Final was none other than Carrigaline club-mate Robbie McCarthy. Robbie was seeking redemption after his loss in the previous year’s final but Joe Doyle triumphed by 3&2.
Another player crowned National Gents Matchplay Champion twice at Rocklodge was Joe Fitzgerald. Joe was playing out of Ferrybank in 1981 when he overcame George McMahon (Old County) by 6&5 in the decider. It was the second of 1982 National Strokeplay kingpin Fitzgerald’s two Matchplay titles. Joe was representing NBPM when he won the 1977 Rocklodge final by 4&3 over Donal Long of St. Annes. Donal Long had won a marathon semi-final (one of the longest in history) at the 41st hole against Tony O’Boyle (Mellows). In 1965 Rocklodge’s own TJ O'Riordan cantered around Rocklodge in 41 for the first 18 in the final and eventually beat Pat O'Brien (Woodvale) by 4&3. TJ thus retained his title, won the previous year at Ierne.
The Gents' National Strokeplay Championships meanwhile were first played in Rocklodge on July 15th 1962. Kevin Rogers (Portmarnock), father of professional golfer Aideen, shot 145 for 54 holes to win by three from Rocklodge's own TJ. J. Ahern (Douglas) clinched the Intermediate with 152 while Denis Byrne (Rocklodge) was crowned junior champion on 168. TJ was again in contention for the National Strokeplay at Rocklodge two years later. Hard greens made for tough scoring conditions on June 28th 1964. TJ's brother Michael O'Riordan (Rocklodge) shot 153 to take the title. TJ O'Riordan was second, four strokes back. Michael Dilworth (Rocklodge) was Intermediate Champion on 163 while Woodvale's Tom Higgins won the Junior with 157.
The National Gents Strokeplay was back in Rocklodge again on July 10th 1966. In the first sudden death play-off for the Championship, Pat O'Brien (Woodvale) beat Eamon O'Reilly (Ballincollig) with a par at the first extra hole. They had tied on 155, Eamon O'Reilly making up considerable ground with a 47 in the final round of regulation play. Graded Champions were Joe Thompson of Lucan in inter on 162 and Michael O'Reilly (Campions) in junior with 171. July 7th 1968 was a glory day at Rocklodge in the National Strokeplay Championship for Eamon Tully. The young Lucan player carded a fine fifteen under 147 to win by one stroke from Tony McGuirk (Campions). Douglas' Denis O'Regan shot 156 to take the Intermediate championship while Jim Allen (Carrigaline) secured the junior in a nine-hole play-off with John Duffy (Glenville), after a tie on 169.
The National Gents Strokeplay had been reduced to a 36 hole format by the time it returned to Rocklodge on July 9th 1972. John Crowley (Rocklodge) took his second Donnelly Cup in succession when his 98 return gave him a four shot margin over Robert O'Neill (St. Barbara's). The youthful Donal Long of Highfield, who went on to win the Senior event at Lucan in 1983, was the inter champion while John McKeown (Elton) took the Junior.
Liam O'Brien's pitch to the blind 10th hole at Rocklodge on July 7th 1996 finished in a horrid spot. The ball nestled at the back of the new bunker behind the green. Two yards of rough ground and a ten foot high slope lay between him and the putting surface. Having pondered the shot for quite a while, Liam executed a descending blow with a closed clubface to send the ball careering into the upslope. It took a huge bounce and checked to a halt on the second hop within two feet of the hole. It was a remarkable shot by any standards and the large Sunday afternoon gallery showed their appreciation. In went the par putt. Birdies followed at the 11th and 13th and, by the time Liam pitched to six inches at the 17th, the victory march was on in earnest. A 49 for the play-off round made a total of 136 overall and clinched a three shot winning margin and a first National Strokeplay championship for him. After a rain-interrupted Saturday, Sunday's programme ran like clockwork.
Liam had suffered with his back in the run-up to the championship and was engaged in stretching exercises as he prepared to hit his opening tee-shot on Sunday morning. That 37 metre pitch was perfect. It went straight in for an ace and having birdied the last four-in-a-row, O’Brien posted a brilliant 44. Amazingly, it got better for Liam in the second round. He was seven under after 14, pitched close at 15, 16 and 17 for birdies and then downed a 15-footer on the home green for a marvellous 21 under par 87. At the end of the morning session, this left the Douglas player six shots clear of Sean Downes (Stackallen), the champion in 1993 and 1994.
In the afternoon, Munster Strokeplay Champion, John Walsh (Collins) was seven under after 18. A hole in one down the 19th was a great boost and he shot 44 for the second 18 to amass 17 under overall and be Liam O'Brien's closest pursuer into the play-off. Sean Downes finished 54 holes on 140 after a 47. John Walsh holed a marvellous putt on the 12th green and boarded the last tee tied on 22 under with Downes. Having pitched about 15 feet from the hole, John Walsh’s position was clear. Hole the putt for second place or lose the silver medal to Downes on the tie-breaker. A smooth putting stroke secured a marvellous birdie. John Walsh's 48 left him on 139 one clear of Sean Downes.
Saturday had got off to a sunny start but heavy showers interrupted play in the Junior and Intermediate Championships. Eoin Philips (Ballykilty) embarked on a purple patch of three birdies in eight holes from the 10th and he could afford to bogey the last to win the junior championship on 156 by one shot from Aontacht Breathnach (Loughlinstown). Chris O'Donovan (Collins), the only one of the main contenders to break par for the play-off, shot 52 and 158 to pip Eamonn Nolan for the bronze medal by one.
Killian Power of Cunnigar crept quietly into the intermediate play-off in eighth place with 104. As the leaders were absorbed in a Matchplay-like situation, Killian carded a bogey-free 48 to set the target of ten under 152. Mark Bowes (Fermoy) was -10 playing the last. He pitched through the green into the second cut of rough and unfortunately fluffed the chip to take four and hand Killian the title. Mark Reynolds (Ballykilty), the 1995 junior champion, shot 51 in the final round to progress from 7th after 36. His 155 earned him third spot on the tiebreak from club-mate Declan Sheedy.
The Inter-County championships have been played three times up the steep winding hill at Rocklodge. In the far-off days of 1974, the Ladies Inter-County championship was played separately to the Gents (the two weren't linked until 1976). 16 counties competed in the Gents Championship at Rocklodge on July 21st. Cork brought an end to Dublin's phenomenal eight in-a-row when the Leesiders took their first title in 10 years. The margin was 10 shots, 413 to 423.
Rocklodge's own TJ O'Riordan, who had been part of the Cork 1964 success was still a stalwart of the 1974 side. Youthful John O'Leary from Carrigaline was hailed as the Cork hero, partnering Gus Carolan, and outscoring him in the hard, tough conditions. It was the first of a Cork four-in-a-row. 35 years ago, the Inter-County Championships returned to Rocklodge on Centenary All Ireland Hurling final weekend - September 1st & 2nd 1984. It was a historic weekend for the home county as Cork won the double for the first time ever.
Cork ladies hadn't won since 1973. Scores of 106 by Eleanor Walsh, Ann Ginnane 108, Rose Scanlon 108 and Joan Kelly 109, backed up by Rocklodge player Mary Hayes (114), gave Cork a one under par aggregate of 431. That was good enough for a two shot winning margin over Dublin who were represented by Geraldine McLernon (now Ward), Sheelagh Elmes, Marie Ruddy, Marie Mallin and Maree O'Toole. Cork's six shot victory on 384 over Dublin in the Gents Championship was their first win since 1977. The Cork line-up included a 16-year-old Chris Scannell who justified his selection with a brilliant 94. Chris was joined by John O'Leary (Dunlops), Liam O'Brien, Brendan Donaghy and Donal Long. Hosts and favourites Cork, the team of all the talents, romped to a fifteen shot victory in the 2001 Inter-County Championship at Rocklodge. Cork regained their grip on the Anchor Cup with a superb 59 under par aggregate of 473 to beat holders and playing partners Kildare into second place.
Inspired by a magnificent 12 under 42 (including an opening nine of 19) from National Strokeplay Champion John Cahill, Cork posted 30 under for the first round to lead Kildare by five at halfway. John Cahill struggled slightly over the early holes of his second round but an inward 21 saw him in the clubhouse with a talismanic 89 total. Following him in were National Matchplay Runner-Up Darren Collins, who birdied three of the last five for 93, Chris Scannell, who was home in 23 for 95 and John Walsh, who was steadiness personified (48+48) for his 96. Ray Murphy was the non-scorer on this occasion but he finished with a flourish, holing from nine feet for a closing dyke and 97.
Peggy Campbell, the reigning National Ladies Strokeplay Champion from Glenville, rolled in a birdie putt from just off the final green to clinch a nine shot victory for Dublin in the Ladies Inter-County Championship. Peggy was round in a 52 second time for her three under par total. Dublin's top scorer was Portmarnock's Geraldine Ward who returned 52 and 51 for 103. Geraldine collected her ninth winners’ medal on her 20th consecutive appearance in the Dublin colours. Dublin's five under par team aggregate ensured their sixteenth Ladies Inter-County crown, beating holders (and champions for the previous two years) Kildare into second place on eight over. Marian Byrne led the Kildare effort with 105 while Tara Dillon shot a brilliant second round 51 in her 109.
144 was the impressive score tallied by Geraldine Ward (Portmarnock) in the National Ladies Strokeplay Championships at Rocklodge on July 13th 2008. That was good enough for a three stroke verdict over Tara Dillon (St Bridgets) – Ger’s fifth Strokeplay success at that point in her storied career. Brenda Purcell (Lucan) returned 172 to take the Intermediate Championship while Mary Quinn (Lakeside) won the junior by twelve strokes on 186.
Ray Murphy’s most recent win in the National Gent’s Strokeplay Championship was at Rocklodge on July 28th 2013. The St Anne's star fired 133 to beat club-mate Donal Duggan by four. Saturday’s Intermediate and Junior Championships had to be curtailed to 36 holes due to adverse weather. 96 won the Inter for Brendan Lawlor (Channonrock) while Conor McCarthy (Deerpark) scored 95 to take the Junior crown.
Tomorrow: We preview the Gents event this weekend
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