President's Address to Convention

Text of President Mark Keohane's speech on Saturday

President's Address to Convention image

A Chairde


I am delighted to welcome you all to the Annual Convention of our organisation, Pitch &  Putt Ireland. On behalf of the National Executive, I thank you for joining us today, your presence here is a testimony to your interest and support of our great game. I would especially like to welcome our Patrons who are with us today and those who cannot attend due to ill health, I am thinking of course of both Vincent Allen and Myles McMorrow to whom I send our best wishes, I would also like to welcome our auditor Michael Sargent and Hon Auditor Sean Minogue.


The first couple of weeks of my Presidency was marked with tragedy in the sad passing of one of our young stars, Shane Murphy, this passing is still hard to comprehend and I offer our continued support to Weeshie and his family, many more of us have also suffered loss in our own lives in the past year and our game has lost dedicated members, I ask you now to stand with me in quiet reflection for their passing.


As I look back, it is hard to believe 12 months have passed, the first few months were a real eye opener for me in respect to the amount of work and detail the President must be involved in andmy respect and admiration for my predecessors has only grown.


We completed our first full playing season post Covid in 2022 and I thank all the players, Clubs and Boards for their cooperation, we have had some brilliant Championships which saw new winners come to the fore and some past champions reclaim titles. New innovations in the way Championships were played had their trial runs especially in the Ladies and U16 Inter-Counties and in the National Scotch, all worked well and will be continued in 2023.


One new feature at Championships in 2022 was the addition of dedicated referees which really helped us as an NEC, I would like to sincerely thank Paddy Kelly, Paul O Rourke, and Frank Dineen for their efforts in the past year and we will strive to expand the Referees Panel this year.It was great to play all Inter Counties once again and although the Nationals in Rocklodge were rain affected it was a super display of colour and skill that we had sadly missed.


I want to congratulate all winners in 2022 and look forward to what will once again be great competition in the coming season. It also gives me great pleasure to congratulate Chrissie Sheedy and Sean Goggin on their No 1 ranked player achievements.As we look forward, I would like to touch on our Handicap system, as you can see, we have proposed changes in grades to be debated today and we will no doubt have vigorous discussion on this later.


From March 1st the system will also be adjusted to enter a players best 36 holes in a 54 hole competition, this will enable playoff scores to be accounted for and thus ensure players have their handicap adjusted correctly, it was also announced last year that penalties would come into effect for clubs that were non-compliant in regards to the minimum number of five competitions they completed and entered in the system, having consulted county boards at our meeting in November it was decided that members of Non-Compliant clubs will not be eligible for 0.1’s back until the closing date for the National Strokeplay has passed and only then when they are compliant for 2023, I would like to remind all clubs that only a minimum of five 18 hole stroke plays are needed in order to be compliant in the system. Our Handicap System works very well when everybody uses it correctly.


Our fixture list received a major overhaul in the past couple of months and I would like to thank the subcommittee of Michael Vaughan, Declan Sheedy and Stephen Murray for the body of work completed so far, at the outset we realised it would not be a simple matter of fixing all the issues in one year and the subcommittee’s work will be ongoing as we go through the season, We will be asking clubs and boards to make their submissions for 2024 earlier this year in order to complete the fixture list before the end of the year, and we will be asking for applications for 2024 Championships in the next few weeks and indeed some have already been submitted.


This year will see the publishing of a new Strategic plan for our sport, within that framework we will be looking at the makeup of our NEC and County/Regional boards, regionalisation is a word we will be discussing alot going forward and questions need to be asked about how many clubs are needed in order to make a board viable and successful in the years ahead in order to grow our game. This year will also see big changes in the administration of our game, not only is our Hon Secretary Michael Murphy stepping down from the NEC after 21 years of service but he has also announced that he along with Anne will retire from their Office roles at the end of June, I would like to pay tribute to Michael’s commitment to our sport in his long standing role as Hon Secretary and wish him the best for the future as President of Fippa.


In order to drive our sport forward we will be seeking to recruit both a CEO and a part time office assistant to run our office, for the role of CEO we will be seeking to hire someone who is dynamic and forward thinking in their approach to increasing our playing numbers and expanding and enhancing the Pitch & Putt Ireland Brand, this in turn should lead to new media and sponsorship opportunities, all this will of course come at a cost, these costs are necessary in this modern day if we are to secure the right person for the role and we will have to look at our Registrations fees for 2024 to help defray some of the costs, I consider this new position a vital step in securing our future and we should not be afraid of spending money in the correct manner in order to ensure that our sport grows as we move forward.


As an NEC we will also be actively looking to increase the number of registered clubs in Ireland, we have been contacted by several interested parties looking to revive clubs and indeed form new ones and build new courses, there is opportunity in the next couple of years for expansion and we must grasp it with both hands. We will also be looking to improve our public image by engaging more with Local Newspapers and Radio Stations particularly in those areas we will be holding National Championships, funds have been set aside in our developmentbudget for this purpose, we will also be exploring such initiatives as a monthly newsletter and Pitch and Putt TV through our YouTube Channel as well as continuing and expanding our live coverage.


As was announced on February 14th this year, Sport Ireland have increased our core grant to €100,000, this is testament to efforts made by all of us but in particular our Office Administrator Michael Murphy and our Hon Treasurer Breda Brophy. We also received on behalf of any club that applied an Electricity Relief grant and received €8,000 which we have dispersed to the relevant clubs. We also received a Covid Recovery grant of €50,000 of which nearly €40,000 will be given to our clubs in the form of credit notes which they can use for registrations and entries, the amount per club will be allocated on a pro rata basis in the coming weeks, the other €10,000 we are going to use to promote and encourage growth in both our Ladies and U16’s.


We are going to expand the Ladies Social Days by holding four in each province in the hopes we will encourage new people to participate, we will trial new ideas such asthe Bring a Friend initiative. To encourage counties to actively increase U16 numbers and put forward teams for Inter Counties we are going to sponsor a Matchplay and Strokeplay Championship for each County/Regional board in the amount of €500 which will be dispersed on the completion of both events. We intend to open discussions with Catalonia about a return fixture for both a Ladies and U16 team challenge later in the year similarthe one held in Seapoint a number of years ago.


I have received great help and advice in the past year from several people and I would like to thank them all but I must single out John Manning for his continued dedication to our game, whether it be his weekly column in The Echo or his help at Championships or indeed in compiling the online referees course and overseeing the training courses, he always sees the solution and not the problem and for that we should be extremely grateful


I must thank my NEC colleagues for their hard work and dedication in the past year, it is only with their help and support I can carry out my own role.  I would like to wish Michael and Brian all the best as they step down from the NEC.


Finally, I would like to thank everyone for their patience and understanding in the past year as I got to grips with the role of President and I hope that today’s convention will be fruitful and rewarding for all in attendance, it is my fervent hope that the year ahead will be a good one for all in Pitch and Putt


Go raibh mile maith agat.


Mark Keohane

President of Pitch and Putt Ireland