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
"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
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
"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
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.