National Gents Strokeplay Build-Up: Day One

A look at our hosts this weekend

John Manning profiles both venues for this weekend’s National Gents Strokeplay Finals in the following piece.


Killineer (formerly Cement)

The idea of a Pitch and Putt course at Mell, Drogheda surfaced in 1969. Three years of hard work followed. Cement Pitch and Putt club was founded in 1972 and immediately affiliated to the PPUI.

An immaculate course occupies six acres on Cement road on the north side of Drogheda town. The attractively laid-out holes present the full gamut of Pitch and Putt challenges, ranging from 36 metres to the monster 18th at 68 metres. The current course record is 39.

Legendary player Geraldine Ward has won the Leinster Ladies Strokeplay and National Strokeplay on the course. “I like it. It’s a very tough, challenging course,” says Ger. “It’s a real pitching course and has four of the toughest finishing holes you can get. You have the long 16th and the 18th is a very tough hole.”

Kevin McDonnell’s name shines brightly in the annals of Cement Pitch and Putt club. Kevin was National Strokeplay champion in 1978 and National Matchplay kingpin the following year.

Ray Matthews came very close to emulating his friend and more celebrated club-mate. The 1978 Leinster Matchplay winner (Cement’s first provincial champion) was the first player in history to lose two National Gents Matchplay finals.

Having installed an automatic watering system in 1980, Cement was the winner of the inaugural PPUI Course of the Year award (Clubs over 100 members) in 1990.

Cement’s impressive first crack at national championship hosting was the 1980 Inter-County. Dublin won the Ladies and Kildare the Gents.

Central Council were back at Cement for the 1984 National Mixed Foursomes. Una and Enda Pyke of Tullamore were very impressive winners.

Over the years, the complex at Fountain Hill, The Mell, Drogheda has been something of a mecca for Pitch and Putt aficionados.

Peter McGuinness from neighbouring Seapoint took the 1986 National Gents Strokeplay Championship at Cement after an absorbing battle with Barry Morrissey (Carrigaline). There were Cork winners in the other grades – Carrigaline’s Gavin Farrissey (Inter) and Richard Jordan of Pfizer (Junior).

Gavin Farrissey scored 99 to just edge out George Beardsley of the host club by a single stroke. Richard Jordan took Junior laurels with 102, two clear of Robert Clear (Riverdale).

Sean Harkins celebrated the second of his three National Gent’s Matchplay Championship successes at Cement in 1991. It was the era of the graded Matchplays and Cement provided their own champions in the shape of Charlie McGrath (Inter) and Eugene Smith (Junior).

Cement hosted International Pitch and Putt on August 15th 1993. The inaugural match between Ireland and Australia was won by the hosts, 563 to 656. Cement’s own Johnny Campbell Junior starred for Ireland. Kilbeggan won the 1993 Carrolls Club Tournament (an event Cement teams claimed twice in the 1980s) at Cement, just ahead of Seapoint and Lakeside.

The legendary Ray Hanratty (RIP) was a marvellous Secretary and Greenkeeper at Cement for many years. Ray’s greatest day on the course to be a member of the Cement Carrolls Club Tournament winning quartet at Catholic Institute in 1984.

There was plenty of Louth success at the 1995 Juvenile Weekend in Cement. Damien Rafferty from neighbouring Seapoint took the Boys’ title and Damien headlined Louth’s first-ever (and to date only) victory in the Inter-County Championship. The exceptional Bernadette Coffey won the second of her three Girls’ gold medals.

Having joined Cement in 1980, Pitch and Putt video coverage pioneer Ben Lennon won the National Junior Strokeplay championship at Collinstown in 1981. Ben served on Cement Club Committee and became Secretary of the Louth Down Regional Board in 1990. He was elected National Registrar in 1991. During his seven-year term in the post, Ben introduced many innovations including the first ever computerised database of membership.

Cement hosted six national championships in 2011 when the Over 55s events were played in Drogheda. Club icon Johnny Campbell won the Gents Senior while Marie Quinn lost to Kathleen Grendon in a Ladies’ Intermediate play-off.

There was also a play-off in the Ladies Senior in which Sheelagh Elmes (Portmarnock) claimed the third of her four titles by beating Skryne’s Kathleen Geraghty after a tie on 103. Breda O’Donnell (Cunnigar) posted 118 to pip Seapoint’s Marlo Everitt by one in the Ladies Junior.

Dan Kiely (Kilmichael) signed for 99 on his way to the intermediate championship, winning by two from Gerry Doyle (St. Bridgets).  Joseph O'Riordan (Bruff) was a five stroke victor in Gents’ Junior on 103. Patrick Davis (Seapoint) took second spot.

Retitled Killineer in recent years, the course last hosted a national championship in 2017. Geraldine Ward captured the National Ladies Senior Strokeplay Championship for a then ninth time as she recovered from one shot behind after the initial 36 holes to score 152 and triumph by two over the three-round format.

Chrissie Byrne (Ryston) led into the final round after posting 100 (51+49) for the opening 36 holes. Ger conjured up a third round 51 to consign Chrissie to a second runners-up placing within a month (Ger won their National Matchplay final meeting at Tipperary Hills) as the Ryston lady settled for a final round 54.

Marian Courtney (Ryston) took the 2017 bronze medal on 155, just ahead of the 156 tally returned by Breda White (Tipp Hills).

Bellewstown’s Cathy Richardson had three shots to spare in winning the Intermediate championship The only player under par in the field after the first 36 holes on two under, Cathy maintained her three stroke advantage over runner-up, Phil Condron (Lucan), the reigning Leinster Strokeplay champion, after both players returned final rounds of 55. Cathy’s second round 50 proved decisive after Phil had set the first eighteen pace on 54. A year on from her junior success on home turf, Mairead Manning (St Stephen’s) also scored 55 in Round Three to clinch third place on 170.

Margaret Forde (Riverdale) accomplished a Munster and National double as she claimed the All Ireland junior cup with a three-round aggregate of 173.  Margaret produced a fine 55 final round to turn a three-stroke 36-hole deficitinto a seven stroke win. Fellow Tipperary player Sive Shelley (Lakeside) led after two rounds on 115 but Margaret Delahunty eventually pipped Sive for second, courtesy of a 61 final round. The Royal Meath lady tallied 180 to Sive’s 181.


Bog of the Ring is situated in rural Co. Dublin, approximately 5 km. south-west of Balbriggan. It is a flat low-lying area with impeded drainage, showing signs of peat development in its upper horizons. The site was drained about forty years ago, but still contains pockets of wet and damp ground where marsh vegetation occurs.

The local Pitch and Putt course is at Ring Commons Sports Centre. Ringcommons Pitch & Putt club has proudly hosted the 2009 Leinster Ladies Strokeplay, 2010 Leinster Mixed Foursomes and the National Ladies Strokeplay finals in 2011 and 2015. Ringcommons was a spectacular venue for the National Ladies Strokeplay Championships and everyone was delighted with the course and the facilities on offer.

Ringcommons Sports Centre was founded in 1977 by a group of young men from the local community. Initially the main interest was in Cricket as many young men were playing Cricket for other clubs around the area and came together to form their own Ring Commons Cricket Club.

As this group did not have any grounds or base they proceeded to reclaim a portion of the commonage (wetlands) at Ringcommons. This was done with the permission of the local landowners who had grazing rights.

Through strong fundraising and voluntary labour a portion of commonage was drained and converted into a playing field. It was decided to call this Ringcommons Sports Centre as the field could facilitate other sports and would be available for the people of the Ringcommons Community.

In 1990, further development took place in order to provide the local school with a football pitch. The Sports Centre was at this point the centre of the community and sought to meet community needs eg juvenile football, senior football, tug of war, model aircraft flying and cricket.

The facilities include soccer pitches, floodlit soccer training areas, and a rugby pitch, The clubhouse (erected in 1998 through fundraising, voluntary labour and a grant from Fingal Co Council), includes a large meeting hall, as well as offices, kitchen, changing rooms, toilets, showers, a fully licenced bar and a function room used for all community events.

In 1998 Ringcommons founded its own Pitch & Putt club and proceeded to develop an 18-hole course. This project was very successful and the Pitch and Putt club has grown from strength to strength over the years. All involved have worked extremely hard to bring this course to the standard that it is at today - worthy of hosting some ofthe top events. The course is now seen as one of the major attractions within Ringcommons Sports Club.

Although the layout is relatively short and flat, the course is anything but easy. The 17th is considered to be a really tricky green for putting. The 8th hole at 40 metres presents a testing tee shot over a small stream with a fence either side. The green is but a couple of metres beyond the stream. The 10th measures just 30 metres but if the hole is cut on the ridge in the green, two putts are not guaranteed. Ringcommons club was very proud to be awarded a Special Merit Award at National Convention on Saturday February 26th 2011. Particular credit was given to the ground staff who work tirelessly to keep the course in tip top shape.

The National Ladies Strokeplay Championships were first played at Ring Commons on July 9th/10th 2011. Chrissie Byrne (St. Bridgets) led the field a merry dance after her stupendous opening round of 43. 18 hole cards of 47 and 49 followed and Chrissie’s 139 aggregate saw her win by seven strokes from her sister Marian Byrne, who scored 50, 48 and 48. Completing a St. Bridget’s 1-2-3 was Tara Dillon on 149 while Tracey McGrath (Erry) finished fourth.

A closely-contested Intermediate championship saw Pauline Balfe (Old County) emerge as a popular winner. Carol O'Brien (Gaeil Colmcille) led into the final round on 107. Pauline Balfe conjured up a second successive 52 in the final round to post one under par 161 to prevail by a single stroke. Mary Murray (Rocklodge) also scored a closing 52 for level par overall and second spot on the tiebreaker from Carol O'Brien who signed-off with a 55.

Christina Carroll (Seapoint) almost lapped the field when she recorded a blistering 51 in the Junior final round. That gave the Co. Louth lady a three-round tally of 172 and a fifteen stroke winning margin over Maria Kerr (Rosscarbery). Dora Kavanagh (Glenville) took third on 190.  

Crucial score in the 2015 National Ladies Strokeplay Championships at Ringcommons on July 19th was the 46 recorded by Geraldine Ward in Round 2. That gave the Portmarnock legend a three stroke cushion heading into the final round. A closing 51 extended Ger’s advantage to five as she lifted the Elvery Cup for the eighth time.

Ger’s Portmarnock colleague Sheelagh Elmes also produced a final round of 51 and that secured second spot on 153, two clear of St. Bridget’s pair Tara Dillon (who claimed bronze on the tiebreaker) and Chrissie Byrne.

Event specialist Mary Quinn (Lakeside) compiled rounds of 57, 56 and 59 for a winning Intermediate aggregate of 172, which proved just a single stroke better than Nicole Burke (Fermoy) who matched par in the final round after opening efforts of 58 and 61.  Nuala O'Gorman of the host club filled third place, just another stroke back.

A standout second round was also central to the massively popular local success of Ann Duffy (Ringcommons) in the Junior Championship. A 57 saw Ann take a six stroke lead after 36 and her 179 for 54 holes saw Ann home by nine shots from runner-up Lisa O'Connor (Tralee). Margaret O'Donovan (Bruff) took third on 193.


Tomorrow: We preview the Intermediate event in Killineer