President's Address to PPUI Convention 2018

Mervyn Cooney's speech in Templemore

President's Address to PPUI Convention 2018 image

Patrons, Officers, Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen

I feel honoured and privileged to once again have this opportunity to speak to you as President of the PPUI.

2017 was in many ways a successful year for the sport, we had some memorable days in our Championships. We crowned new champions and welcomed back an old club to our Union. We saw a steadying of our adult registrations but a continued decline in our juvenile members. This continued drop is a major worry and we must explore all options in an attempt to halt the decline in our Juvenile numbers. I am delighted to see a number of clubs undertaking juvenile recruitment initiatives, this is very welcome and I wish them well with their endeavours and I want to assure them of my support and that of the NEC. I would appeal to our clubs to engage in promotional activities in an effort to attract new juvenile members and to ensure they have the correct structures in place to comply with current legislation in the area of child protection.

The Garda Vetting procedure is now more straightforward and with a much quicker turnaround time. The same legislation applies to all sports it's a legal requirement under Irish law. It is important for clubs to remember that even if you do not have or allow juvenile members but accept green fees from children you still must be compliant with certain aspects of the law and have a notice posted in your clubhouse advising of your compliance. Paul will be more than happy to go through all of this with clubs and I encourage you to do so. But let's not be frightened of this legislation. The most important thing to remember is that it is all common sense and is what we would want for our own children and grandchildren to ensure their protection.

Following a number of years of falling numbers and the savage recession which we suffered as a country it is no surprise to see a decline in our financial position. While our income suffers through a falloff in registrations and support for competitions, our costs continue to rise. We have a constant fixed cost each year and it is something that really cannot be reduced if we are to continue to offer the best service we can to our members. In 2017 we had to devise and print a strategic plan, help fund a pesticide course which is compulsory for our clubs to undertake, and we also made a contribution to the cost of producing our handicap system. The overall effect of all this saw us make a loss and added to previous losses sees our overall cash pile drop to €165,000. On the face of it this is still a healthy reserve and one many other sporting bodies in the country would be very happy with, but from our perspective it is something we need to address.

At our annual meeting with our Auditors on February 15th our accountants raised concerns about our financial position and in their opinion we need to address it immediately. They were of the view that we should try to achieve a yearly increase of approximately €15k in revenue, I promised to address this at our convention. Our registration fee hasn't changed since January 1st 2004 when it became €13. It is fair to say few if any prices have remained static for the last 14 years. The Treasurer will in the course of her presentation today ask Convention to approve a €2 increase in registration effective from January 2019. I would appeal to delegates to support this proposal to ensure continued financial stability for our sport.

Another area of concern for us is a decline in participation by our lady members, we have already discussed some of the reasons for this, and we are proposing changes to our Matchplay for 2019 in an effort to encourage more entries. We must make every effort to attract more Ladies to our sport and to emphasise our commitment to this I set up a sub-committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Darren Keogh to conduct a comprehensive review of all aspects of Ladies Pitch & Putt and to bring forward proposals for the future, I look forward to their findings. In 2017 we had a ladies day held at McDonagh and while we would have loved to have seen a larger entry it was nonetheless a very successful day in which those present seemed to really enjoy it. In an effort to build on this in 2018 we have set aside a date in April to hold a Ladies Day in both Munster and Leinster, this will ease travel time and cost for players. I would encourage clubs to help us promote this initiative.

`               We have agreed further changes to our online Handicap System; we believe we now have a system that will work well for Pitch & Putt. The idea of having a gender neutral Handicap System however laudable proved impossible to implement because the vast majority of Ladies were unable to match the CSS when based on a standard Scratch of 46/47. From March 1st a standard scratch of 54 will apply to Ladies, based on returns to the system so far we believe this the correct figure for the vast majority of our lady members. Each club will now also have a ladies course where the standard scratch will be 54 this will simplify the inputting of scores. We have also proposed to set new handicap limits of +1 to -21 for ladies and +3 to -16 for Gents; we again based those figures on the data gathered by the system over the last two seasons. It may be necessary to look again at the maximum handicap for ladies to ensure all members have an opportunity to be competitive off their playing handicap.

We are also limiting increases to .1 by doing away with the .2 and .5 increases, the maximum increase in a year is limited to 1 full shot, while some may see this as harsh we are again offering clubs a further opportunity to ensure that their members are off the correct handicap by once again allowing a possible increase of 1.5 to a players handicap. We are also offering an end of year review based on a players returns in the system. If the system suggests that a player should be playing off a higher handicap then with the agreement of the club the increase will be awarded to the player. Of course this will also work in the opposite direction.

In 2017 we introduced a €2 course levy to help clubs who host our competitions, the overall effect of the levy was to see over €5,000 going back to the host clubs, I realise this is just a drop in the ocean as the cost of hosting a major championship can be very substantial. The support for competitions was slightly down in 2017, I am not sure if some of this can be attributed to the increased cost, or whether there were other reasons. I want to put on record my appreciation to the clubs who hosted our championships and competitions, and to thank them for their hospitality and commitment to our sport. I would appeal to members to support our events in 2018, by doing so you guaranteeing the future of our sport and also making a significant contribution to our host clubs.

On the International front in 2018 we can look forward to participating in the European team championship to be held in the Basque region of Spain, and I have no doubt Ireland will be represented by a really strong team. We have decided to change how players are selected for trials this year, the top 40 ranked gents players and the top 10 ranked Ladies will be invited to participate in the trials, I believe this is a more transparent method of selection and will I think be welcomed by players. In a couple of weeks from now five Irish players will embark on the latest stage of the International development of our sport when they travel to Chile for their Open and the inaugural playing of the Fernando Morgado Trophy, Europe v South America. This is another significant milestone for International Pitch & Putt and also a significant cost factor for our Irish players. I want to both congratulate and thank them for the support they giving International Pitch & Putt. I know the entire Pitch and Putt community in Ireland will be supporting them and I am sure they will do Ireland and our sport proud.

Ireland remains committed to the EPPA and FIPPA concept, but we must be at the centre of it and not on its periphery. I have spoken at length to the FIPPA President and asked him to explore every possibility in an effort to engage in dialogue with his counterpart in IPPA. It is also important to remember that most counties in Ireland have more Pitch & Putt players than Italy and France combined and while they seem to have a lot of countries as members the fact is most of these are the Golf Federations in those countries. In the interest of Pitch & Putt we need to commence dialogue and attempt to reunite the sport.

We continue with our efforts to the further development of our sport here in Ireland through the efforts of Paul Hayes and the schools coaching programme under Steven Enneguess. Paul continues to talk everyone involved in the sport both inside and outside the PPUI. We hope to see a breakthrough in Connacht during 2018 with the building of a course in Ballina this is being developed by Ballina Golf Club. We have forwarded an affiliation pack to a commercial course in Dublin and hopefully they will join us, we will continue our efforts throughout 2018. Paul will expand further on other development work he has undertaken in his report to Convention.

A meeting with the GUI took place on Tuesday to discuss areas of mutual interest. I asked Paul Hayes to represent us at this initial meeting, he tells me it was a very interesting discussion for a first meeting and it was agreed to continue discussions going forward. We will be doing so as totally independent sport and protecting our own unique identity, but I do think we should look at areas of mutual interest. The GUI have already talked about a possible challenge between leading Pitch & Putt players and top golfers perhaps around the time of the Irish Open, and they have guaranteed a strong media presence if it was to take place.

In conclusion I want to thank my colleagues on the NEC for their continued commitment to the PPUI; a considerable amount of work goes on behind the scenes. This year for instance we were subjected to a pulse audit by Deloitte on behalf of Sport Ireland; as a result of this a considerable amount of policies had to be put in place. I want to thank Michael, Breda and Myles for their efforts in putting these policies together. I also wish to thank Ann and Paul for their work on behalf of the PPUI.

At this Convention we see Noel Collins stepping down from the NEC. Having worked closely with him for the last two seasons I am acutely aware of his dedication to Juvenile Pitch & Putt. Noel introduced new additions to the competition calendar for juveniles which have been widely welcomed. He was also was an excellent on course official at all our championships and competitions and we will certainly miss him and I wish him well in his new position with the Cork board.

Ladies and Gentlemen thank you for your attention and the very best of luck to our clubs and boards for this season ahead.

Mervyn Cooney

PPUI President