BY JONNY McCLINTOCK
Sitting in the bar of Dunfanaghy Golf Club you cannot help but notice the many photographs on the wall. These chart the club’s history from a remote course in north west Ireland, which catered largely for the needs of holiday makers, to a serious contender in Irish and world golfing competitions/circles. One of the most striking photos is undoubtedly the old black and white photograph taken over 70 years ago of the young caddies whose lives are described so evocatively in the 2006 Centenary Book. Nearly three quarters of a century later, another photo shows the same venue, but the cast is quite different. Just like their predecessors, these young boys smile out at us, golf clubs in hand. Like their predecessors they too have been out on the course on a Saturday morning. Unlike their predecessors, however, they have been playing, not caddying – the first “graduates” of James Sweeney and Brian Dolan’s very successful Junior Golf programme.
Although separated by decades and backgrounds, it is possible to draw parallels between the two sets of boys? Will Luke Kelly be the next James Brogan? Could Carlos O’Reilly and Andy Clarke emulate Sean Ferriter’s sporting prowess? And here is hoping that Tom McClintock can be as successful not only in business but on the sports field as Mick McGinley.
James Brogan’s golfing career is legendary, but was ably summarised recently by Nigel Doherty. “James should be in the Guinness Book of records, as he has won 10 Captain’s Prizes in Dunfanaghy and one All Ireland Captain’s Prize. This was at a time when James played off a handicap of 1, a fantastic achievement in its own right.” In different times and circumstances, James might even have taken the leap of faith needed to move from being one of the leading amateurs on the island of Ireland to entering the professional arena. Although too young to have won a Captain’s prize yet, let alone 10, Luke Kelly, has already been the champion golfer in Ireland at U17 level and at Ulster Under 15 level. The move to further Luke’s golfing career is much less daunting than it would have been for the young James Brogan. Luke’s next steps include a scholarship at top NCAA Division 1 university in the USA (Oakland in Michigan) where he will compete against the leading golf amateurs in the world on a regular basis.
Sean Ferriter was a sportsman of some note, who made his senior debut for Donegal in 1957 at the age of 18. He went on to captain the Donegal side in 1963. He won county titles with St. Eunan’s and Railway Cups with Ulster. Carlos O’Reilly and Andy Clarke are only beginning their footballing careers, but already Carlos has helped LYIT to their first Fresher’s All Ireland title, and, playing off a golf handicap of 2, clearly has an exciting sporting future ahead of him. Andy Clark’s soccer journey has also already started promisingly. Having made his senior debut as a 16-year-old for Saintfield United, he moved first to Crusaders before joining Linfield last summer (2021), where he made his Champions’ League debut against Lithuanian side Zalgiris Vilnius.
Aside from being the father of professional golfer and Ryder Cup winning captain, Paul McGinley, Mick McGinley has been very successful, not only on the sports field, but also in business. He played football for Donegal, winning McCrory Cups with his school, along with captaining national amateur golf teams. His professional life has been notable for the success of his telecom’s company, Sigma Wireless. Here’s hoping Tom McClintock can use his degree in business as effectively in the future. He has already come a small way to matching Mick’s sporting achievements, with several Ulster and Irish hockey underage caps to his name.
On closer study of the Caddy’s photo what is striking and worthy of consideration is the number of that group that went on to bear office as a Committee member. Neil McGinley, Mick McGinley, Sean Ferriter and James Brogan all being examples of people who were either Club Captain, President (or both) and contributed massively to the club that we know. Given the age profile, would it have been possible for these young lads to have shaken hands with someone who shook the hand of Harry Vardon when he was laying out the course in 1906? It’s fascinating to consider how these boys were woven into the fabric and history of the club.
The two groups are separated by time and different opportunities. While the caddies can reflect on lives well lived and a huge contribution, not just to Dunfanaghy Golf Club, but to local sporting and business communities in Donegal and further afield, the young lads are preparing to travel in hope and we wish them every success as they set off on their quest to fulfil their dreams. But let us not forget that Dunfanaghy Golf Club is central to both stories and we should all be grateful that we are part of a club and community which has survived for well over a century and continues to allow us to enjoy the game of golf in such beautiful surroundings.
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