For several years now, the opening competition of the golfing season at Banbridge Golf Club has been generously sponsored by P.J. Johnston, the proprietor of the Seven Stars Restaurant in Loughbrickland.
This year was no different and there was an air of excitement around the club on Saturday for the first major competition of the year.
The back tees came into play and 16 holes were open for play. The course was drying out fast and the weather was fine.
Will Dickson (18) was in top form as he claimed first prize with an excellent score of 38 points. He said that he was inspired by his playing partner Hugo Downey who encouraged him all the way round.
Paul Magennis (6) was the runner-up with 37 points, another brilliant score. Paul played the 16 holes in level par and only for a slip-up at the final hole, he would have won.
Kevin McKay (14) looks set for another successful season. The big-hitter was third with 36 points.
And it was good to see Colin Wilton back in action and playing really well. He won the best gross prize with 30 gross points. That equates to a three over par round. Seamus McGrath (15) was the best senior player with 36 points.
There was a special prize for the closest to the hole on the 18th. That went to sharp-shooter Neville Kerr.
DONALD AND JANE DOYLE WIN THE MIXED GREENSOMES
It was a special day at Banbridge Golf Club on Sunday as well. The now traditional Captain’s Drive In was followed by a mixed foursomes competition.
The two captains, Noel McSherry and Denise McBrien, hit perfect drives off the first tee to signal the start of the 2014 golfing season proper. They were warmly applauded by all present.
Then the mixed greensomes competition started and there was a very large entry. Played over 12 holes, it resulted in a very close finish.
The winners were Donald Doyle (23) and his wife Jane (28) with 29 points. Both Donald and Jane are relatively new recruits but they are fast learners. This is only the start of what could be a very rewarding season for them both.
The runners-up were Bill McCandless (6) and Teresa McConville (24) with 28 points.
Teresa has become something of a cult hero around the golf club because, despite her age, she carries her golf clubs around the course. There is a strong body of opinion that we should all be carrying our clubs in the winter-time. If Teresa can do it, so can the rest of us.
In third place came the highly ranked pairing of Sherwin Curran (15) and his wife Karen (20). They had 27 points. Finally, in fourth place was Merton McDowell (21) and Vivian Faulkner (30) who also had 27 points.
SATURDAY 8TH MARCH
This was the last of the winter season sweeps and the conditions favoured the early risers.
Colin McKinney kept his game under control and was the overall winner with 32 points. One of his playing partners, John Bell, also featured in the prizes, second in the low section, beaten on countback by Nigel Bryson. John Fitzpatrick also went off early and he won the middle section.
The full list of prize winners is as follows:
Winner: Colin McKinney (17) 32 pts
1st Nigel Bryson (8) 30 pts
2nd John Bell (6) 30 pts
1st John Fitzpatrick (17) 30 pts
2nd Michael Robinson (15) 30 pts
1st Albert Morrison (18) 32 pts
2nd Kieran McGreevey (21) 31 pts
SUNDAY 9TH MARCH
Kenny Arlow played the nine holes of the Sunday Sweep in a very impressive two over par gross and that was just about good enough to take the first prize.
Kenny was well pleased but not as much as Dominic McArdle, who had the only two of the competition and picked up a two-week rollover.
1st Kenny Arlow (14) Nett 31.
2nd Alex Clarke (13) Nett 31.5.
3rd Mel Hamill (15 Nett 31.5
THURSDAY 13TH MARCH
Now that the season proper is approaching, there will be new names amongst the winners. Cecil Wilson emerged from his winter hibernation to win this sweep in some style. Spare a thought for Bertie Shaw and John Poots who both had 32 points but lost out on count-back.
1st Cecil Wilson (16) 32 pts
2nd Adrian McAvoy (17) 32 pts
3rd Paddy Malcolmson (15) 32 pts