Ahead of this weekend’s National Gents Strokeplay Championships, John Manning profiles host club Hillview, a club that has played a massive part in the very formation of the PPUI.
The late great P.J. Bell (Woodvale) R.I.P. designed nine holes of Pitch and Putt for the then Hillview Tennis club in 1955. The club was a founding member of the Pitch and Putt Union of Ireland and the Co. Tipperary outfit has been central to the history of the Union. It was at Hillview that our great organisation was born in 1960.
As the 1950s gave way to the swinging sixties, the loquacious and irrepressible Ernest O’Brien Hogan was President of Hillview. The National Pitch and Putt Association (Leinster) and the Irish Amateur Pitch and Putt Union (Munster) were considering conciliatory talks with a view to establishing a unified countrywide Pitch and Putt framework. The delegations from the two organisations met in September 1960 at the Hillview club under the chairmanship of Ernest O'Brien Hogan (RIP). In a cordial atmosphere created by Ernie’s cheery stewardship, discussions led to an agreement to draft a detailed Constitution for a united union. Ernest was later elected a Patron of the PPUI.
Strangely, the Hillview course at Mountain Road, Clonmel has never before hosted the National Gent’s Strokeplay championship but it is second only to Rocklodge as the course most often honoured with championships. Counting all national championships and All Ireland handicap events, Hillview is joint second with Tullamore on the all-time list. Hillview has been the venue most often used for the Inter-County championship (six). Hillview has received many awards from the NEC during the years under various PPUI Club development projects. Hillview has constantly supported the Union’s Schools programmes and Coaching initiatives.
The modern-day Hillview layout was created in 1978 with the incorporation of land at the south end of the course, known as "The Bog ". Designer Niall O’Neill, with the support of numerous local volunteers, transformed this area, which had lain unused for many years. Several of the extra holes, designed and built in 1978, are still in play on the Hillview championship course. Niall O’Neill actually took second place in the novice (junior) section of the inaugural National Strokeplay championship of 1961 in Athgarvan and secured a prize for the best nett of the day.
As a perennial President of Hillview, the late esteemed Paddy Power (R.I.P.) was the driving force behind many a successful championship hosting. Hillview are always truly magnificent hosts. The social and catering elements of hosting are invariably superbly delivered by the revered Clonmel club. Informative and attractive souvenir programmes augment the events on the course. The flawless greens routinely receive universal acclaim from players, officials and supporters.
A loyal attendee at PPUI Annual Convention, PPUI Patron Paddy was a staunch defender of the Constitution and rule book. Delegates always looked forward to a Paddy Power intervention on the Convention floor. There were glowing citations for sitting Officers and aspiring candidates. There were many witty, unconventional contributions, delivered with a roguish glint in the eye. Opportunities for banter were never passed up, particularly if there was an opening to champion his beloved Tipperary.
The club has produced many fine exponents that have achieved royally at the top end of our sport. Eoin Morrissey won the first ever National Matchplay Championship under PPUI rules, which was held at Hillview in 1961. In the same year Noel Wall was National Gent’s Intermediate Strokeplay champion in Athgarvan while club-mate Jimmy Browne claimed the novice (junior) title on the same day .In 1966, an Eoin Morrissey and Noel Wall led all-Hillview side claimed Tipperary’s first Gent’s Inter-County title on their home turf in Clonmel. Joan Fogarty took the 1977 National Ladies Intermediate Strokeplay championship at Douglas.
Jason McNamara was National Boys Strokeplay champion in Millennium year (2000). Jason’s 88 at Fermoy that year stands as the all-time low score in National Juvenile Strokeplay Championship history. After winning the National Girls’ Strokeplay championship at Seapoint in 2007, Michelle McCarthy (Hillview) scored 161 at Glenville to clinch the 2009 All Ireland Ladies Intermediate Strokeplay title.
Hillview hosted the National Seniors’ (Over 55s) Strokeplay championships in 2008. Margaret Slattery was a home winner, defeating Kilbeggan’s Veronica Clarke in a play-off for the ladies’ Intermediate crown. In 2008, Davy Hallinan scored 153 at Tullamore to win the National Gent’s Junior Strokeplay championship for Hillview.
The course gets off to a relatively short start with six of the first seven holes measuring under 40 metres. But the iconic uphill 18th at 69 metres has witnessed much drama over the years. Uphill and downhill pitches, strategically placed bunkers and trees, fast breaking greens and grassy mounds all combine to make this historic venue a true test of Pitch & Putt.
Tomorrow: We preview the Intermediate and Junior Competitions on Saturday
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