The Irish Golf Expo 2017

Ireland’s largest Golf Show comes to CityWest in Dublin on Saturday 25th & Sunday 26th February 2017 when the Irish Golf Expo rolls into town! There are over 10,000 fanatical golfers expected to attend and based on previous Expos there could be even more than that at CityWest on the last weekend of February next year. Ticket Sales are available HERE and includes a Free Round of Golf as well!

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The move to Dublin from up North has been welcomed as approximately half of the 410 golf courses in Ireland (yes, that many!) are based in and around the greater Dublin area. This gives your golf club, resort or business the ideal opportunity to connect with and showcase your products & services to a very captive audience indeed! I would recommend booking early to make sure you get your exhibition space and to also take advantage of the robust marketing campaign for the Event, both online and in print!

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Some highlights to look forward to during The 2017 Irish Golf Expo include:

  • Q&A with Shane Lowry!
  • Trickshot Show
  • Free PGA Professional tuition
  • Indoor driving range
  • Custom club & ball fitting
  • Exhibition stands from golf industry leaders
  • Educational workshops from Ireland’s leading golf experts
  • Rory “Washing Machine Challenge“!
  • Golf Simulators – Long Drive & Closest to the Pin competitions

The Marketing & PR Campaign for The 2017 Irish Golf Expo will include a mix of TV, Radio, Print & Digital along with extensive PR activities in the run up to the event. A focus around the “Ultimate Fourball Prize Package“, worth over €10,000, will ensure a very high attendance at the event itself. There are also Partnership Opportunities, including Naming Rights, available on a number of different levels to suit your marketing budgets and company objectives. Some benefits of Irish Golf Expo Partnership include branding, database content, product placement, advertisement in the event programme, involvement in the Marketing & PR campaign including launch, social media and web content.

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The standard Exhibitor Package costs just €250 plus VAT per square metre, with a minimum 3m x 2m shell scheme as standard. Bespoke or Larger stands are of course available on request along with electrical & furniture packages, including a double wall socket, lights, table & chairs. Any queries on Exhibitor Packages please contact Tom Kennedy on +353-87-6453537 or email tom@tomkennedygolf.com.

For further information visit the Irish Golf Expo Website, you can also check them out on Twitter and Facebook. We look forward to seeing you at The Irish Golf Expo 2017 in February in Dublin! Get your Tickets online HERE!!

15 months in Ghana

On Tuesday 7th May 2013 I arrived in Kotoka Airport in Accra, Ghana, to take up the role as National Director of Golf. I would be involved with what was due to be a 3 year contract as part of a project funded by The R&A and supported by other partners – Paul McGinley Golf Design (Africa), Tullow Oil and the Ghana Golf Association. The 4 bodies made up the Ghana Golf Development Board (GGDB) to whom I reported to directly, via Joe Bedford who was Paul McGinley’s trusted Project Co-ordinator.

The first few months in Ghana were very much spent getting the know my surroundings (read about my first 6 months in Ghana more here), the golf clubs through visiting them and attending events, the various members of the Ghana Golf Association (GGA) and preparing a report pretty much on the state of golf in Ghana. This report was delivered to The R&A, Paul McGinley, Tullow and the GGA on Thursday 13th June in Accra as all GGDB stakeholders were present in Ghana to meet up and officially launch the board which would look to develop the game of Golf in the country. That weekend, when all was done and dusted thankfully, I got my first of not too many bouts of food poisoning (not from my cooking I must add!).

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A big part of my role was to help Achimota GC & Academy develop in terms of creating revenue, sales & marketing, golf operations and also finalising the preparations for the upcoming course re-opening – the project having been funded by Tullow Oil and undertaken by the McGinley Design Team. We had some decent success with increasing revenues at the Golf Academy, which was also part of the Tullow investment, by promoting Team Building days to the many corporates in Accra and also by offering Membership for the Academy as well. We also ran a Skills Challenge through November and December, sponsored by Johnnie Walker & Diageo, which was fairly well patronised and again provided further revenue possibilities. Advertising at the Academy also brought more revenue in as it seemed there was much scope for further development.

As the end of 2013 approached we had successfully increased revenues at the Academy and also had a decent database of golfers to promote future offers to in the future, hopefully this is still being used! Much was done over the final months of 2013 on putting together Golf Club Membership packages for Achimota as the course neared completion although there was still much work to do here due to a combination of some torrential rain showers, electricity problems and other issues. The first ever Golf Management Seminar was staged in late November at the African Regent Hotel with the majority of golf clubs in attendance including the other golfing bodies around Ghana, it was highly successful and resulted in a clamour to make it at least an annual seminar if not something that could be done on a quarterly basis covering different topics pertaining to golf clubs and golf club management.

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There was, of course, the hours to fill outside of work and with a few Irish lads around this was generally looked at to be done in the pub! Paul Kelly, Grow-In Manager for McGinley Golf Design, became the regular drinking buddy, along with his cousin Ciarán, and we also were usually the sounding boards for the “cribbing” that did happen from time to time! Smollensky’s, a rooftop bar that was usually not frequented by mosquitos after dark, was the usual watering hole on a Friday where many bottles of Heineken and bowls of chicken wings were had – the staff were very good but we gave them an awful time with our Irish banter, luckily for them they usually didn’t have a clue what we were on about! Most weekends were downtime so, apart from the rare enough round of golf (yes, I did not play that much golf in Ghana!), filling the hours on Saturdays and Sundays could prove difficult especially when I was not driving. Fortunately we all had Super Sport in the apartments which showed even more Football than back home so we always had the Premiership to keep us company along with Heineken Cup and 6 Nations Rugby; all the PGA Tour and European Tour – I even managed to get the odd episode of Love/Hate online but never quite found somewhere showing Fair City in all the time I was in Ghana!

Trips home came ever 2/3 months and my first trip back came at the end of July 2013 which was 13 weeks into my tenure, with most Ex-Pats doing 8 weeks on and a week to 10 days off this was a fair stretch but did set me up for the long periods of time away from home in Ireland. My first trip coincided with the wedding of 2 very close friends but the jet lag very much hit me in Carcassonne on the night of the wedding and I think I ended up being first to bed, a first in my book but it was in the offing having flown from Accra to Shannon via London, then a drive to Cork and off to Carcassonne within 24 hours – that’s my excuse anyway and at least it got me a mention in the father of the bride’s speech! Golf was always on the menu when I got back to Ireland and it was great of my Golf Industry buddies for taking care of me here, you know who you all are!! As much as I missed home, as you do when you are away, being in Ghana in 35 degree heat in January and February made the home sickness a little easier to deal with.

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A trip to St Andrews in early February 2014 materialised with my attendance at the Tournament Administrators & Referees School which was staged at the Fairmont Hotel St Andrews over 3 days. I learnt a lot there and definitely have a greater understanding of The Rules of Golf now, it was also very beneficial to me to be able to chat to other golfing nations about their setup and the problems they encountered in their own countries. It was a great experience and much thanks has to go to The R&A for putting together such seminars like this, it wasn’t too shabby to spend nearly a week at The Home of Golf either – even managed a few wee drams down at the Jigger Inn but the highlight of the week for me was definitely sitting in Peter Dawson’s chair in The R&A Clubhouse after a delicious delegate dinner there.

The early months of 2014 took in a lot of work with Achimota Golf Club & Academy as a number of issues needed attention – especially getting the setup right for the Golf Club itself with the impending Re-Opening of the course soon approaching. The Academy continued to do well in terms of revenue and it was my responsibility to continue to push this forward. Good success in other areas included securing sponsorships for the Ghana Open 2014 and the following 2 years with Airtel Ghana – this was played from Saturday 20th – Monday 22nd September at the Royal Golf Club Kumasi recently.

Other developments during the early part of 2014 included the decision to send a Junior to represent the country in The Junior Open Championship at West Lancashire GC during the week of The Open but unfortunately the visa for Davidson Atila was not approved in time for him to travel to the UK, in better news Daniel List continued his development into a fine amateur player representing Ghana in international junior events while a second junior event was put together to add to the calendar, this time the Asantehemaa National Youth Tournament at the Royal Golf Club in Kumasi which was sponsored by Ecobank.

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The Partial Re-Opening of Achimota Golf Club took place in late May 2014 and I was delighted to be involved with this in conjunction with Paul Kelly and the Achimota GC Committee, plenty work was done (the vast majority by Paul and the McGinley Design Team) and it was a huge experience for me to see what goes into building a golf course from scratch. The Asantehene Gold Cup took place in Kumasi during May as well and it was great to attend the tournament although the only highlight for me on the course was an eagle 3 on the par-5 13th! The visit of Master PGA Professional, Alasdair Barr, was one of the big highlights for me as he spent the best part of a week imparting his considerable knowledge to the Ghana PGA Golf Professionals and also the best and brightest Juniors as well – many thanks for The R&A for arranging for Alasdair to visit Ghana once more and hopefully it will now be an annual event!

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As June and July arrived the Airtel sponsorship of the Ghana Open was finalised and I also managed to secure $20,000 from Ecobank to send the Ghana Amateur Team to take part in their first ever World Team Amateur Championship, which would be held in Japan in September. It was during early July that I came to a difficult decision, for personal reasons I decided to end my time in Ghana as National Director of Golf as I handed in my resignation – I would finish up in the country in late July.

Prior to me finishing up in Ghana I had the small matter of attending The Junior Open, unfortunately without our Junior golfer due to problems getting his visa! It was still a very beneficial experience and hopefully the GGA will be able to send a Junior Boy and Girl when 2016 comes around. A big handover was completed over the course of July, including a few farewell drinks with the Irish lads and of course a few other buddies in Accra.

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Being National Director of Golf was a phenomenal experience for me and I hope whoever takes up the position in the future will help the development of Golf in Ghana. There was a lot of success including the developments in Junior Golf (the new youth tournament in Kumasi to go along with The Ghana Junior Open, the securing of $20,000 from Ecobank to send the Amateur team to Japan for the World Amateur Team Championship); the visit of Alasdair Barr; a longer term sponsor for the Ghana Open; the staging of the first ever Golf Management Seminar in Ghana and the GGDB involvement with the re-opening of 13 holes on the redeveloped Achimota GC by Paul McGinley. At the time of writing the Grand Re-Opening was just over a month ago, it looked like Paul remembered to bring along The Ryder Cup with him in his luggage to Ghana! It was an absolute pleasure working alongside Paul McGinley and The R&A on the Ghana Golf Development Project – it is a fantastic departure and will hopefully provide a template to further develop golf in West Africa in the future! Many thanks to all GGDB stakeholders and the friends I made during my time in Ghana for many most memorable months as National Director of Golf Ghana!

Partial Re-Opening of Achimota GC

The redevelopment of Achimota golf course is nearing completion. The course has been redesigned to USGA standard by Paul McGinley (2014 Ryder Cup Captain), with the project funded by Tullow Oil, while the Clubhouse reconstruction has been funded through Achimota Golf Club.

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The course is due to re-open in the near future and the Partial Re-Opening will be on Saturday 31st May & Sunday 1st June for Members only. After that there will be limited play for Members only as well, until the course fully re-opens to the golfing public. Stay tuned for further details!

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For membership and other enquiries please contact Achimota Golf Club on 026-2525725; email achimotagolf@yahoo.co.uk or you can contact Tom Kennedy, Director of Golf Ghana, on 054-0101707; email ghanagolfdevelopment@gmail.com.

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The Irish Open 2013 – Preview

The Irish Open Golf Championship returns to Carton House this week after last being played there back in 2006 when it was won on that occasions by Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn. It also returns to the Montgomerie Course, having initially been pencilled in for the O’Meara Course at Carton. A field of the very best Irish golfers, from North and South, along with some of the top European stars will fight it out over 4 days for what is still one of the most coveted titles in European golf – Padraig Harrington considers it his “Fifth Major” so that just shows the grá he has for the tournament. There have been 2 Irish winners since the last Irish Open was hosted at Carton, Harrington and Lowry while he was still an amateur, and a large home crowd are hoping again to cheer on an Irish champion!

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Golf Ireland have been putting in a lot of work behind the scenes, and much credit should go to them for this. I particularly like their grandstand on 17, where I’m sure the Irish crowd will be looking to rival a similar, but much larger, amphitheatre at the PGA Tour stop at Phoenix. The the craic should be mighty at 17 over the 4 days of the tournament though…..they don’t get that in the States! Fans can reserve their seat for the 17th hole grandstand for just €10 per day, ensuring that in the year of The Irish Gathering they are part of this exhilarating crowd experience. Big screens will also be erected at the 17th hole allowing spectators to watch all of the action from elsewhere on the course. Anyone who has already purchased reserved seating for the 18th green grandstand will also receive automatic entrance to the 17th stand. All reserved grandstand seating for the 18th on Saturday and Sunday is now sold out. Information about the 17th hole grandstand at the 2013 Irish Open can be found on www.europeantour.com/tickets, where special advanced tickets offers for the tournament can also be located.

An advance season ticket for all four days of The Irish Open can be bought for €70. Adult day tickets are priced at €30 pre-event, and €35 on the gate. Concessions are available at €50 for a season (€60 on the gate) and €20 for any one day (€25 on the gate). Under-16s accompanied by an adult are admitted free of charge and all car parking is also free.

Here are the guys who I think will contend this week, I’ll try to run the rule over the most of the Irish in the field as well.

RORY McILROY (17/2 best price with Sportingbet)

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It’s tough to consider Rory the favourite with his recent form although from what I have heard coming out of the practice rounds so far the course this year, with decent weather, will suit the bombers and McIlroy is right up there with all the biggest hitters in the game. Rors has not really contended much this year however and it will be interesting to see how his indifferent form may hold up to this down the stretch on Sunday. I think better value can be had with some of the other Irish players.

THOMAS BJORN (16/1 best price with BETFRED)

The Dane triumphed here when the Irish Open was last played at Carton and in very tough conditions too. He could well be coming in here as the BMW champ, only a double bogey late on in Germany derailing his hopes on the final day. Expect Thomas to be in with a chance here, he is playing well and obviously has previous course form too.

GRAEME McDOWELL (16/1 best price with Paddy Power)

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G-Mac is simply the best Irish golfer on form at the moment, 2 wins this year already and plenty fine play in between that as well should make him one of the leading contenders to hoist aloft the Irish Open trophy come Sunday evening in Kildare. His US Open performance was obviously not up to his high standards of late but I would not let that blip put you off. He’s also 7/2 (Ladbrokes) to be top Irish player so that might be worth looking at as well

PADRAIG HARRINGTON (20/1 best price with Stan James & Paddy Power)

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Two superb rounds followed by one poor round and then one terrible round sum up Padraig’s week at the Travelers Championship in the States, I hope he has gotten over that and the jetlag to make a proper attempt at winning his 2nd Irish Open. Paddy finished 11th here back in 2006 and if he gets into contention there are few players around that fight as hard as he does. I don’t think this will be his week, Muirfield could well provide this in a few weeks time, but with the home crowd cheering him on it would not surprise me. He considers the Irish Open as the Fifth Major, and rightly so as an Irish golfer, so the motivation is always there for him and he’ll be trying his hardest to win again.

ROSS FISHER (25/1 best price with Ladbrokes)

Ross finished tied 5th back in 2006 and his form has been better of late than in recent years. 25/1 is a bit shorter than I thought he would be however so he is more included here because of his previous course form rather than his overall form coming into the tournament. He does love the Irish Open though and it obviously has memories for him for certain reasons, being the 2010 Irish Open champion is of course one of these.

SHANE LOWRY (25/1 with Stan James)

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One of Offaly’s favourite sons tees it up at Carton with a lot of expectation on his shoulders. He is their Touring Professional and lives on-site so he should know the course better than anybody in the field really. He is playing good golf, his win over friend Rory McIlroy in the Accenture Matchplay being one of the highlights I suppose where his amazing touch around the greens was evident. He will need this short game to be razor sharp once more with the tricky greens on the Monty course and, of course, with those bunkers! Has a big chance this week.

A few for the maybe pile are PAUL CASEY (50/1 with sportingbet), PETER UIHLEIN (45s with Stan James) and ROMAIN WATTEL (70/1 with Stan James). Now for the rest of the Irish!

I think in terms of a good performance, comfortably making it to the weekend and going from there could well be seen as the target for the likes of David Ryan, John Kelly, Damian Mooney, Brendan McGovern, Reeve Whitson, Gavin Moynihan, Donal Gleeson, Cian McNamara, Gareth Shaw and Kevin Phelan while Barrie Trainor (with Limerickman Andrew Kiely on the bag for the week!), Seamus Power, Mark Murphy, David Higgins, Alan Dunbar, Simon Thornton, Michael Hoey, Gareth Maybin, Damien McGrane and Peter Lawrie may well have loftier goals. Mark Murphy was one of the last into the field and he has been coming on leaps and bounds since winning the Big Break Ireland a few years back. He made a fantastic eagle on his 36th hole at Portrush last year to make the cut so he is no stranger to coming up with the goods when it is least expected, I’m sure some cute Kerrymen may well have a few euro on at 80/1 ! The prospects this week of Ryder Cup Captain, Paul McGinley, and 2011 Open Champ, Darren Clarke, are uncertain as they are not playing as much as a few years back. McGinley, of course, has plenty on his mind with Ryder Cup duties along with his link to the Golf Development Project in Ghana as well. Clarke has really never found the same form that brought another Irish Major win at The Open Championship. Apart from the leading Irish contenders like Rors, G Mac, Harrington and Lowry, it may prove surprising if the lads above contended at the top of the leaderboard – they are all fine players however and with the home support there may be something special to happen yet, we all remember 2009 at Baltray!

Here’s to a wonderful week of golf at Carton House for the 2013 Irish Open, not sure what the weather will be like but let us hope it will be fitting for the biggest tournament in Irish golf and one that should be a flagship event on the European Tour calendar. There will be a few events going on during the week that are not to be missed, namely the ‘Open House @ 17’ Challenge. Anyone visiting the Tented Village at Carton House can register to compete in the challenge at the GUI National Academy stand. Spectators can then use the shuttle service provided by The European Tour to access the challenge which takes place at the GUI National Golf Academy adjacent to the championship course itself.  The challenge involves a 170-yard tee shot to a green in the short game area of the Academy – replicating the testing challenge that the world’s top professionals will face during the Irish Open tournament itself. The six players closest to the flag each day will be invited to play the actual 17th hole in front of packed grandstands and galleries with prizes on offer for the winners including vouchers for the National Golf Academy and discounts on insurance from the GUI’s main sponsor AIG.

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Other initiatives include the ‘Irish Double’ ticket to enjoy the third round of the Irish Open and the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby Day for a combined price of €50. It will hopefully prove to be a fantastic week of golf in Ireland, I just wish I could make it!

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McGinley quite rightly gets the Ryder Cup nod!

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Paul McGinley made history this week when he was appointed the first ever Irish Captain of the European Ryder Cup Team. Irish golfers have had an amazing record as part of the Ryder Cup teams, from Eamonn D’Arcy beating Ben Crenshaw in 1987 at Muirfield; Christy O’Connor’s 2-iron in 1989 at the Belfy vs Couples; Phil Walton’s great victory again Jay Haas to bring the Cup home in 1995; Paul McGinley’s putt in 2002 at the Belfry to win the Cup; Harrington defeating Tiger & Phil alongside Monty in 2004 and beating Tiger again with McGinners the next day at Oaklands Hills; Darren Clarke’s amazing performances at The K Club in 2006………..the list just goes on and on!

It has taken a long time in coming to finally see an Irish golfer as Ryder Cup Captain after such a significant contribution to the competition over the years. We could potentially see another 2 Irish golfers as Ryder Cup captain soon too with Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington definitely in the running for future captaincy roles, although the fact that Darren was strongly considered this time around maybe counting against him for subsequent Ryder Cups.

Paul McGinley is a true gent of the game, very similar to his more illustrious colleague, Tom Watson, of Team USA. His behaviour during the run-up to the announcement of Team Europe’s Ryder Cup Captain was a credit to him, staying in the background and just letting things unfold while others very much let themselves down, not wanting to name any names of course…………Monty does spring to mind though! McGinley has served as Assistant Captain twice so his Ryder Cup pedigree is without question, both teams winning, in 2010 and quite miraculously in 2012, and, of course, he held the winning putt in 2002 at the Belfry along with delivering significant contributions in 2004 at Oaklands Hills (the highlight probably being his 4&3 victory over Davis Love III & Tiger Woods while in tandem with fellow Irishman, Padraig Harrington) and of course who can forget his amazing show of sportsmanship to JJ Henry in conceding his putt for a half on the 18th green at The K Club even though victory for Europe had been secured. His unbeaten record in Ryder Cups, as player and Assistant Captain so far, will definitely be put to the test when Tom Watson returns to Scotland, his second golfing home, in 2014 at Gleneagles. His captaincy credentials were already copper-fastened of course, performing with much credit in the Seve (Vivendi) Trophy in 2009 & 2011.

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The main questions raised in the build-up to the European Team Captain announcement this week was would Paul be the big enough name needed to stand up to Watson in the captaincy stakes, and also maybe whether he would be able to command the respect of 12 of the best golfers in the world for a week. His grit and determination shown as a player in Ryder Cups would answer a resounding yes to the first question and the fantastic support shown for him by players such as World No.1 Rory McIlroy and the name called “Mr Ryder Cup” in certain quarters, Ian Poulter, among others definitely points to the other issue not being an issue at all.

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Paul McGinley is quite simply a Ryder Cup legend, having won 3 out of 3 as a player and 2 out of 2 as an Assistant Captain. He has served his Ryder Cup apprenticeship by captaining GB&I in the Vivendi Seve Trohpy twice so the next logical step and much deserved appointment was to make him Captain of Team Europe for the matches at Gleneagles, Scotland, in September 2014. I’m already looking forward to September, those of you who read my blog piece on Tom Watson’s captaincy will already know this!  How about an all-Irish backroom team of McGinley, Harrington & Clarke facing up to Watson, Palmer & Nicklaus in 20 months’ time?!!? The proverbial golfing mouth waters!!

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