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A proud history.

The Press Golf Society was born in 1968 and, with its 40th birthday not far around the corner, it is appropriate to reflect on a truism that has applied down the years… the skill used in handling a pen doesn’t always extend to manipulating a golf club.
Conviviality and bonhomie are prominent marks of the press golfer: talent and physical prowess are more difficult to detect.
But enthusiasm has always been there in abundance, from the perpetual hacker to the player who takes a par in his stride.
A man who helped inspire the formation of the society was Jack Duddy, then Gallaher’s PR man in the province and now one of our esteemed vice-presidents.
Jack had been inviting local and national golfing journalists to test their skills at Knock on the day before Gallaher Ulster Open tournaments, which attracted Europe’s top golfers to Shandon Park from 1965-70, and Malone in 1971.
While most spectators followed Christy O’Connor during his three Gallaher Open triumphs, there were competitive stirrings among local sports journalists with a special love of golf, including Jack Magowan of the Belfast Telegraph, Jack Milligan of the Daily Mirror and Eoin McQuillan of the News Letter.
The enthusiasm of that trio led to the birth of the society, with the first president being Harry Law, chairman of the Northern branch of the Irish Professional Golfers’ Association.
The society had quiet beginnings, but progressed when it was opened up to include not only sports journalists, but also scribes generally and photographers.
A host of journalists, sponsors and other supporters have contributed to the wellbeing of the society down the years, and it is only fear of inadvertent omission that prohibits the listing of many names.
One name that is worthy of a most honourable mention, however, is that of Fred Daly, Open champion of 1947 and Society President for many years after Harry Law.
Quite simply, Fred was a gem: a man whose high place in the world of golf opened many doors for the press golfers.
Fred must have bitten his tongue on many occasions as he surveyed the swings of society members, but occasionally the tongue loosened and he would inform a less than athletic participant that he “swung like Ruby Murray…”
Fred was feted at every society destination, particularly when he returned to the Hoylake links at Royal Liverpool in 1987 to mark the 40th anniversary of his Open triumph
Secretary Deric Henderson had organised a memory-lane trip to remember. Fred was made an honorary life member of Royal Liverpool and, unknown to him, a surprise, distinguished guest for the occasion was Harry Bradshaw, one of his best friends and a long-time adversary on the course.
Fred died in 1990 and was followed as President by Johnny Frazer and Brendan McCann. Coming up to the present, it is appropriate that our current president is Norman Drew, another great friend of Fred and an eminent golfer who also achieved Ryder Cup status.
The society’s search for a member to emulate Fred as Open champion has been unsuccessful so far, but we live in hope…
More to the point, we cordially invite all golfing journalists to join us. We can’t stress it often enough…camaraderie rather than quality is the society’s hallmark and we warmly welcome beginners, as well as those with tigerish tendencies.
You will find out much more about the society in this website – and we look forward to you becoming a member.
Des Magee

Denis O'Hara Remembers

"The original Belfast Sports Writers' Golf Society began, I reckon, in 1968, one year before the launch of the Northern Ireland Football Writers' Association," claims Denis O'Hara. 

"Bill Clark, formerly of the Sunday Mirror and also an original member of the Belfast Golf Society, believes it may have started in 1967 or 1968."

The other surviving member of the first Press Golf Society, along with Clark and O'Hara, is current vice-president Jack Magowan.

O'Hara added: "I am of a firmer leaning towards 1968 for the Society's humble start. The reason I believe this to be the year was because the Gallaher Ulster Open was then in full swing, with Jack Duddy always retaining a kind and close connection with with the media.

"I 'covered' such events for the Irish News, with Eddie Dineen the photographer. I believe there is a connection, obscure or otherwise.

"Somewhere along the line, during those idyllic days of the Bernard Hunt and Christy O'Connor rivalry in the Gallaher Ulster Open at Shandon Park, the idea of a Sports Press Golf Society was mooted.

"In the hazy recollection I also recall talks about forming the Football Society. The late Gerry McGuigan, a freelance sports writer, was heavily involved in both, as treasurer, and with the Golf Society first to start. 

"The N.I. Football Writers' Association began in 1969, with the first awards in 1970. 

"There was early sponsorship backing from Guinness for the Football Writers, with Des Broadberry the link. I believe livewire organiser Gerry McGuigan also winkled out some backing for the Golf Writers' Society."

The first meeting to launch the golf idea was held in the clubhouse at Knock,

Bill Clark recalled the occasion: "It was in the old clubhouse. We met in a wee room where you could look out onto the the 17th teebox and 17th fairway.

"We were up at Knock covering the Ulster PGA championship. I'm pretty sure among the players in the tournament were Fred Daly and Norman Drew.

"During the Championship the working press gathered in the Clubhouse, had a chat, and those interested who played golf decided to start a Golf Society. 

"We had the late Gerry McGuigan appointed secretary/treasurer. Gerry was great, and may have been the instigator in securing some sponsorship backing later on.

"I remember Gerry getting in the region of 50 from some firm. That was substantial money in those days.

"Gerry was also very involved shortly after that in getting the Northern Ireland Football Writers' Association up and running.

"In the Press Society we managed to get small financial backing for prizes. In the beginning, as far as I can recall, the members were Gerry McGuigan, Jack Milligan, Eoin McQuillan, myself, Denis O'Hara and Jack Magowan.

"Milligan was our first Captain, then McQuillan. In those days it was was confined purely to sports journalists.

"Gerry McGuigan always did the organising. I think our very first competition was matchplay. We did a draw. I don't remember who I played.

"Because the number of people playing was so small we opened the door shortly afterwards to sports photographers such as Eddie Harvey."

Bill, Captain of Helen's Bay Golf Club in 1989, added: "I have one very happy memory of playing in a Belfast Press Golf Society outing, when I shot my best ever round of golf. I don't recall the year. 

"I played in an outing at Ardglass and had a good score. I was so delighted when my handicap was cut to twelve, which I proudly held onto for about a fortnight.

"I am now a sporting 21 at Helen's Bay. I was never Captain of the Press Society as I was unable to make many Society outings. 

"I had to travel a lot in those days . . . over to England and back because of work commitments with the Sunday Mirror.

"I'll take a guess at trying to name the year the Society was launched. I was with first employed by D.C. Thomson in the Weekly News, and then joined the Sunday Mirror in 1965.

"Perhaps the Society started in the summer of 1967, the year I covered my first Open Championship for the Sunday Mirror, when Argentine's Roberto De Vicenzo won it at Hoylake." 

Denis O'Hara remarked: "The first Golf Society was known as the Sports Journalists' Golf Society and soon afterwards changed to be known as the Belfast Press Golf Society.

"I think Eddie Harvey, then of the News Letter, was the first of the sports photographers to be invited to join. He was a playing member at Belvoir Park. 

"Eddie was followed in by Brendan McCann (Irish Independent), Eddie Dineen (Freelance/ Irish News) and Davy Anderson of the Belfast Telegraph. 

"Later on, I believe Cecil McCausland, Chief Photographer of the News Letter, was invited in. The ranks swelled when the Committee agreed to expand the Belfast Press Golf Society. 

"The books opened to news journalists who were interested in joining. The additions were Norman Stockton, Dan Kinney, Jack Kelly, Des Magee and David Capper.

The Society expanded to included journalists such as David Sloan, Ivan McMichael, George McAvoy, Leslie Daws, Neil Johnston, Ray Managh and John Devine.

Incidentally, Eoin McQuillan was, in my view, basically the person responsible for setting up the Golf Society

Once a qualified lawyer who played soccer for Belfast Celtic reserves, he began in the Irish News Sports Department. 

He also penned a Golf Column for the Northern Whig under the name of John Gerrard.

Eoin, whose roots were in Ballymoney and Glenravel, was fanatical about his golf. 

I feel he was the Society's first big driving force, aided by the colourful Jack Milligan, then chief sports writer in Northern Ireland for the Daily Mirror,

Eoin, a competent ten-handicapper, was a playing member at Massereene and at Cushendall, where he featured for the latter in Ulster Cup team matches. 

He religiously played a round of seriously competitive golf every Monday, weather permitting, in the company of other enthusiasts such as Pat Carvill, former Ulster PGA secretary Brian Campbell of Belvoir Park, and a Fr Brian McAteer. 

The heavy matches were at Massereene or Cliftonville.

Out of that McQuillan and Milligan came up with the idea of forming a Press Society. 

The fact McQuillan and Milligan preferred to play on a Monday, a day of rest after a heavy weekend of covering soccer and gaelic games, it was no surprise Monday was the given day for the monthly Society outings.

Unfortunately, this did not always suit some folk, such as Jack Magowan. He was not always able to gain time off work on a Monday, having to attend to his duties as the golf and boxing writer for the Belfast Telegraph.

Milligan, McGuigan and McQuillan generally did some successful 'leaning' on club officials to gain free green-fee access for our outings. 

This happened for a limited period at Massereene, Knock, Balmoral, Holywood, Fortwilliam, the old Dunmurry course and Belvoir Park.

Later we spread our wings to other superb settings such as Clandeboye,  Ardglass, Kirkistown Castle, Bangor, and up country to Fred Daly's birthplace - Royal Portrush.

In the middle to late Sixties I played mostly at Magee Island, thanks to generous invitations of their former club professional Billy Marshall. 

Mostly I played closer to hand - at Balmoral, because I was living then at Sharman Road, Stranmillis. 

More often I enjoyed leisurely golf at Balmoral in the company of a near neighbour Jack Stanfield, was a playing member at Balmoral and also a member of their snooker teams. 

At that period I had a brief association with a Left-Handed Society that emanated out of Balmoral through a Harry Law and a Harry Christie. 

Fred Daly, later to be our esteemed Belfast Press Golf Society President and able to unlock many doors for us (and with the nursemaid help of Bob Hailes and later Johnny Frazer), fitted me out before that with a rare half set of left-handed leather bound Fred Daly autographed John Letters irons. 

During that time Fred used to materialise from his shop and join me in a haphazard game on the Balmoral course. It was then I discovered he started golf as a left hander. 

A former hockey prospect at Portrush, the young Fred, a caddie at Royal Portrush, began in golf when he managed to secure the loan of a few unused left-handed irons.

During our erratic little jaunts all over Balmoral, rarely ever playing the holes in sequence, he would 'borrow' one of my irons and then play majestic shots, especially with a five iron. 

I was the first left-hander in the Belfast Press Society, followed by Brendan McCann.

 By  Denis O'Hara. (August 2008)

Footnote - Denis O'Hara, Captain of Cushendall Golf Club in 1983, is also an original member of the Northern Ireland Football Writers' Association and the Irish Golf Writers' Association.